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Filing a Civil Case Without a Lawyer Guide for the Pro Se Litigant

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  FILING A CIVIL CASEWITHOUT AN ATTORNEY:A GUIDE FOR THE PRO SE LITIGANT UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURTNORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS(1/31/11)  TABLE OF CONTENTSIntroduction ...........................................................1 Legal Words: Some Terms You May Encounter and What They Mean ..........2 Filing Your Civil Case: What You Must Do to Get Started ....................7 Fees .................................................................15 A Few Basic Procedures for Ongoing Civil Cases ...........................16 E-Filing ( Electronic Filing) .............................................16 The Clerk’s Office .....................................................18 Getting Legal Help .....................................................20 Federal Agencies and Courts ............................................25 Appendix: Samples of Forms and Local Rules ..............................27  Introduction This guide is intended to help people who want to file a civil case without an attorney. Someone who files a civil case on his or her own behalf is often referred to as a pro se partyor pro se litigant (pronounced pro say).If you are a pro se litigant, this guide will help you to understand some of the legalterms you are likely to hear as your case proceeds. It will explain some of the guidelines thatcontrol how a civil case moves forward. It will also give you information about a few legalresources you may wish to consult. However, the guide is not   a substitute for an attorney.The staff of the Clerk’s Office can help you by answering questions about procedures, but they are  forbidden by law  from giving you legal advice. This means, for example, that theClerk’s staff cannot do any of the following: ! recommend a legal course of action or suggest ways to help you win your case; !  predict how a district or magistrate judge may decide any issue; ! interpret the meaning of any judicial order; or  ! interpret the local rules of this Court, federal procedural rules, or federalstatutes.The rules and procedures that affect the way your case proceeds can be hard tounderstand. With that in mind, you should seriously consider trying to obtain professionallegal assistance. There are legal organizations that can help arrange for you to have a chanceto talk with a lawyer about your case for a small fee. There are also some organizations thathelp to arrange for attorneys to represent litigants at no charge. A separate section of thisguide lists organizations that may be able to offer you legal assistance.This guide has been organized into the following sections: ! Legal Words: Some Terms You May Encounter and What They Mean ! Filing Your Case: What You Must Do to Get Started  ! Proceeding In Forma Pauperis ! Fees ! A Few Basic Procedures for Ongoing Cases ! The Clerk’s Office ! Getting Legal Help ! Appendix: Samples of Forms and Local RulesCopies of the forms that are included in the Appendix of the guide may be obtained from the Clerk’s Office in Chicago or Rockford. The Chicago office is located on the 20th (Guide to Civil Cases for Litigants Without Lawyers: Page 1)  floor of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse at 219 South Dearborn Street. The Rockford, Illinoisoffice is located on the 2nd floor of the United States Courthouse at 211 South Court Street.The District is divided into two divisions. The Chicago courthouse is the headquartersfor the District’s Eastern Division. The Rockford courthouse is the headquarters for theDistrict’s Western Division. A map of the District has been included in the appendix, showingthe counties in each division. Legal Words: Some Terms You May Encounter and What They Mean The courts and lawyers use words that you may not encounter in other settings. Because their vocabulary is specialized, you are likely to hear or see terms that are somewhatconfusing. This section gives you definitions of some of the most common legal terms used in civil cases. It is intended to help make it easier to understand the discussion in the rest of the guide. Amount in The phrase “amount in controversy” is sometimes used to describe controversy the amount of money requested in a civil case. Answer The answer is the name for the document filed as the defendant’s basicresponse to the complaint filed by the plaintiff. The answer mustrespond to each of the points made in the complaint. Appearance An appearance form is a document form that records the name and   form address of someone who is representing one or more of the parties ina case. It is called an appearance form because it is a formal statement by the person who files it that he or she will “appear” in court on behalf of a party. The information entered on the appearance form is used bythe Clerk’s Office to send copies of notices and orders. Appearanceforms are completed by both attorneys and pro se litigants. A sampleappearance form has been included in the Appendix. Civil case A civil case is a legal action in which one party (the plaintiff) suesanother party (the defendant). In a civil case, the plaintiff claims thatthe defendant or defendants failed to carry out some type of legalduty—for example, the duty to comply with a contract or the duty notto violate constitutional rights. The plaintiff also claims to havesuffered a financial loss or personal injury because of the defendant’sactions. In most civil cases the plaintiff asks the court to order thedefendant to pay for the harm suffered by the plaintiff. (Guide to Civil Cases for Litigants Without Lawyers: Page 2)

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Aug 2, 2017

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