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How to file a Civil Complaint

The Clerk's Office has developed detailed instructions for filing a civil action on your own behalf. After reviewing these directions, the following links will walk you through the process of completing the four items required for filing a civil action.


The  Complaint:

The first step in filing a lawsuit is to prepare a complaint.  The Court has a general complaint form.  You are not required to use this form, but you may find it helpful to look it over.  Form with ExplanationGeneral Civil Complaint.  The Court also has a general form for Review of the Decision of the Commissioner of Social Security.  The Instructions for Filing a Civil Action on Your Own Behalf provide additional information about the paper size, the document format, signature requirements, and the number of copies you must provide at the time of filing your complaint.


The Summons:

In order to let the opposing party, or defendant,  know you are filing a civil action, you must serve the opposing party with a copy of your complaint.  This service is accomplished by issuing a summons through the Clerk’s Office.  The Court has a standard summons form.  Form with Explanation:  Summons  You must include two completed summons for each defendant listed on your complaint.   You must include six completed summons for each defendant that is the United States, a federal agency, or a federal employee in an official capacity. For additional information about the summons, review the Instructions for Filing a Civil Action on Your Own Behalf.


The Civil Cover Sheet (JS 44):

Each civil action must also include a completed civil cover sheet (JS 44) to assist the Clerk’s Office in processing your civil action.  All federal  district courts use a standard civil cover sheet (JS 44), which includes instructions on how to complete the form.  You can also contact or visit the Clerk’s Office for assistance in completing this form.  For additional information, review the Instructions for Filing a Civil Action on Your Own Behalf.


The Filing Fee or an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis:

Under federal law, all civil actions have a filing fee. You can pay the filing fee by credit card or money order.  Money orders must be payable to "Clerk, U.S. District Court".  If you believe you are unable to pay the filing fee, complete an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis and submit it along with your complaint. Additional information is also available in the. Instructions for Filing a Civil Action on Your Own Behalf  A judge, not the Clerk's Office, will review your request and determine whether you qualify to file your case without paying the full filing fee.


Before filing any document, please omit any sensitive information.  Refer to page 3 of the Instructions for Filing a Civil Action on Your Own Behalf.  After completing these material, return the completed forms and the correct number of copies to the appropriate point of holding court.

Nothing in these links or tutorials should be viewed as legal advice.