To familiarize you with words you will hear frequently, the following is a list of some legal terms and their definitions:
If you are filing a lawsuit on your own and will represent yourself, you are proceeding pro se.
IN FORMA PAUPERIS
To proceed without prepayment of costs or fees for filing a complaint.
The person who is filing the complaint against an individual, a corporation or company, or a government agency.
The party that is being sued.
A party to a lawsuit.
One who has been admitted as an attorney at law to assist his/her client with advice and pleads for him/her in open court.
The document that a plaintiff files with the Clerk of Court to initiate a lawsuit. It contains a clear statement of the important information about the claim(s) of the plaintiff and identifies each defendant. (See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a).)
A document filed by the defendant in response to the complaint.
This is a formal command of the court, directed to the defendant, which informs the defendant that an action has been brought against him/her and an answer is required. (See Fed. R. Civ. P. 4.)
A request made to the court for the purpose of obtaining a ruling or order directing an act to be performed in favor of the applicant or movant. The court may either hold a hearing on the motion requiring the parties to appear OR the judge may decide the motion without a hearing.
An order is issued by a judge or a magistrate judge and usually directs the plaintiff or the defendant to do something. An order may also be issued to grant or deny a motion.
The official and authentic decision of a court adjudicating with finality the respective rights and claims of the parties to a suit.
The power or legal authority of the court to hear and decide a case.
Civil case/civil action number assigned to a case by the court when a new complaint is filed. The number includes the “CV” designation for a civil case, followed by the last two digits of the calendar year in which the case is filed; the number of the case in the order filed during the calendar year, followed by the designation of the division where filed, and ending with the initials of the district judge to whom the case is assigned. (Example 96-CV-12-BLG-SPW-CSO)
The Clerk of Court receives a document for safekeeping until a decision is rendered by the judge as to whether the document shall be filed.
WAIVER OF SERVICE OF SUMMONS
Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 4, service of summons can be waived by the defendant. The “Waiver of Service” with its companion form “Notice of Lawsuit and Request for Waiver of Service of Summons” can be mailed by the Pro Se plaintiff by 1st class mail to each defendant to request the defendant to save costs by not requiring service of process.
SERVICE OF PROCESS
The service of writs, summonses, or rules to the party to whom they ought to be delivered.
Please see the Glossary of Legal Terms for additional definitions.