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Frequently Asked Questions

View Table: Facts   

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Question
What are the requirements for the filing of a civil lawsuit?
Solution
A civil action is commenced by filing the following:

Item: Complaint
Requirements: File the original plus one copy of your complaint, and one copy for each defendant to be served. Exception: If service is to be made on an agent or agency of the U.S. government or the United States of America is named, one copy each is required for the Attorney General, the United States Attorney's Office and the named agency.

NOTE: All copies must be signed, dated and identical to the original, and all parties must be named in the style of the case on the complaint, or any other pleading initiating a suit; "et al." is not acceptable.

Item: Civil Cover Sheet
Requirements: File the original plus one copy.

Item: Summons
Requirements: File the original plus one for each party to be served. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 4.

Item: Service
Requirements: The plaintiff is responsible for service of the summons and complaint on the defendant. Service may be effected by anyone at least 18 years of age who is not a party to the suit. The U.S. Marshal will serve summonses only if ordered by the Court or for In Forma Pauperis cases. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 4.

Item: Filing Fee
Requirements: There is a filing fee of $400.00 for most types of civil lawsuits. See Fee Schedule and 28 U.S.C. §1914.

The fee must be paid at the time your complaint is filed. If you are paying by check or money order, it should be made payable to "Clerk, United States District Court." The court does not accept credit cards. There are no fees for jury demands, counterclaims, etc.

If you are unable to pay the filing fee, you may file a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. If the court grants this request, it means that you will not have to pay the filing fee at the time your complaint is filed. The form necessary to file a "motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis" is available in the U.S. District Clerk's Office. When completing the forms, it is very important that you answer all questions relating to your income, assets, and liabilities. If you fail to provide complete and accurate information, your request may be denied or you may be required to provide additional information. If your request is denied, you will be allowed a reasonable opportunity to pay the fee.

Item: Notice of Removal
Requirements: File the original plus one copy of the civil cover sheet, a supplemental civil cover removal sheet and a Notice of Removal.

All of the forms are available at the U.S. District Clerk's Office. You can also download the forms from here, if available.