As an attorney in multiple states (California and Louisiana) there are many overlapping rules and theory of law that are transferable from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. However, there are many local and state wide idiosyncrasies that are not necessarily taught in law school or not easily attainable for pro se or pro per litigants. This post has some helpful tips regarding filing a law suit.
California is a jurisdiction of forms. The State Bar has gone to great lengths to make a form for just about any situation. In that same light there are many that overlap and you nearly need a law degree just to navigate through the long list. The California Courts also have very helpful information regarding the legal process and all of the different procedural devices used by lawyers.
A typical checklist for items needed when you file your civil case are 1) Complaint, 2) Civil Cover Sheet, 3) Summons, and 4) Receipt and Acknowledgement. The complaint is your main document to be filed. This is where the Plaintiff lists out all of the facts and causes of action that related to the allegations being asserted in the suit. The complaint is the lawsuit itself and will be a part of the public record. The Civil Cover Sheet is a mandatory form that needs to accompany any new filing. This tells the clerk what type of case is being filed. Next is the Summons. This document tells the court and the opposition who is being sued and what that person/entity’s legal rights are with regard to an answer. Lastly is a handy little form that I like to include called Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt. This form allows for you to mail serve the Summons and Complaint on your adversary saving time and money. If the defendant does not reply within 20 days, it will be obligated to pay for your service fees. The normal delay to respond to a suit is 30 days.
Once you get your complaint filed you will want to serve your adversary with the documents to complete the process. You can use the Notice form listed above but if that fails then you will have to hire a process server to get the suit to the defendant. Regardless of how you serve them the clerk of court requires proof of service. This too is another form, Proof of Service of Summons. This helpful form has a long check list of methods of possible service. You make sure you followed one of the statutory required methods, file your proof and then your law suit has formally begun. You then must wait for your adversary to answer.
This blog post is a part of the California Civil Procedure Series written by Wolfe Law Group. You should contact an attorney when dealing with procedure issues as there are strict time limitations which need to be followed.