Taking someone to court in Arizona requires a fair amount of paperwork and planning on the part of the plaintiff. A civil case is a lawsuit between individuals, corporations, businesses or partnerships. Some common examples of civil case types are divorce, property damage, breach of contract, personal injury, or collection of debt.
Depending on the type of lawsuit you are filing, the steps you will take to prepare for your case will vary, but the steps for filing the suit and summoning someone to appear in court apply in any civil lawsuit. You can find all of this information on the United States District Court’s website for the District of Arizona, but we will attempt to simplify and further explain the steps here. Always consult with an attorney if you have questions about your situation.
Step 1: Preparing your complaint.
Your complaint will state the reason you are suing the defendant and what action you want the court to take. Keep in mind while you are writing your complaint that it cannot include any personal identifiers other than:
- The last four digits of a Social Security Number or taxpayer ID number
- The individual’s year of birth
- If the individual is a minor, the individual’s initials
- The last four digits of the financial account number
Step 2: Filing a complaint with the clerk of the court.
Keep in mind that the court staff is not allowed to answer certain questions you may have when you go to file your complaint. For example, they aren’t allowed to give you advice about how to word your complaint or estimate when you will appear in court or if you have a good chance of winning.
Here is what you will need to bring to the clerk of court when you are ready to file:
- An original and a copy of the compliant
- An original and a copy of the summons listing each defendant
- Payment. Make sure you know the correct filing fees for the the specific court where you are filing the legal document.
If you are unable to pay the money, you can file in forma pauperis (IFP), which means that you are unable to pay the fees. A judge will look over the documents you submitted to the court concerning your lawsuit and decide whether or not you will be allowed to proceed with the case. If the judge denies your request, you won’t be able to proceed with taking someone to court until you are able to pay the filing fee.
Once you have filed your case, it will be given a number and put in line behind the other civil cases that were filed before you. You complaint will be forwarded to a judge who is randomly assigned to the case.
Step 3: Serving the summons to appear in court.
The person you are suing is not required to show up in court unless he or she has been served a subpoena, a document ordering a person to appear in court. You are required to figure out how you want to serve these papers to the defendant or defendants, the court does not inform individuals that they are being sued.
There are a few exceptions when you may be able to serve papers yourself, but you will most likely need to hire a process server or a sheriff. There is an option to mail the summons to the individual, but you can only use this if you are taking someone to small claims court and it isn’t the most reliable solution because the defendant could refuse to sign for certified mail.
If the person you are suing is trying to evade you so you are unable to serve them papers, you should hire a professional. At TAG»Process Service, for example, we have full-time private investigators on staff to track down people who are trying to get out of appearing in court and it can save you from a lot of stress and wasted time.
Step 4: Preparing your case and appearing in court.
Once you have served the person you are suing, you can continue preparing to appear in court. Taking someone to court can be a lot of work. You will need to be well-versed in the laws in your state so you know what paperwork and proof to bring with you. You should always consult an attorney if you have questions about how best to prepare for your case. This article is intended for educational purposes only.