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- A lot of the terminology used by the court and attorneys is hard to understand. Is there a glossary or list?
Is there a referral service for local attorneys?
If you are unable to find an attorney on your own, you are encouraged to contact the Alabama State Bar Lawyer Referral and Information Service. You may also reach this service by telephone at 800-354-6154 or (334) 269-1515.
Will the court appoint a lawyer to represent me?
Unlike criminal cases where there is a right to counsel, a person involved in a civil case has no legal right to have the court appoint a lawyer to assist him or her.
You may file a motion with the court for appointment of counsel but such requests are rarely granted.
How do I bring criminal charges against someone?
Only the United States Attorney's Office may file criminal charges in this court.
If you believe you have been the victim of a crime or if you have knowledge that a crime has been committed, you should contact your local police or the appropriate federal law enforcement agency. Examples...
Is there special information about employment discrimination cases?
Yes. A very common action filed by pro se litigants in federal court is alleged employment discrimination. Prior to filing an employment discrimination complaint, the plaintiff is required to follow specific administrative procedures.
NOTE: This is not a...
What is a Magistrate Judge and why has my case been referred to a Magistrate Judge?
In this district, Magistrate Judges hold scheduling conferences, issue pretrial scheduling orders, and hear and determine most pretrial matters. The District Judge may refer motions to dismiss or summary judgment motions to the Magistrate Judge who will issue a Report and Recommendation. The...
Is it possible for you to speak directly to a judge or judge's staff about your case?
You are prohibited from all private, or ex parte , communication with the Judge to whom your case is assigned. Ex parte communication occurs when one of the parties to a lawsuit, or when that party's attorney, exchanges information with the assigned Judge without the opposing...
How is the Clerk's Office able to assist you?
Because the Clerk's Office cannot offer legal advice, we have constructed a worksheet that will remind you what our office can and cannot do to assist you. We have a worksheet detailing how our office can and cannot assist...
If you call, may you speak with the Clerk of Court?
Yes, but typically, questions can be answered by a deputy clerk. When you call with a question, it is best to be prepared with your case number so that you can be directed to the appropriate deputy clerk most familiar with your case.
Why can't the Clerk's Office give legal advice?
Court employees cannot give legal advice because they must remain neutral to protect the integrity and independence of our federal courts. Court employees can answer general questions about court procedures, and you may contact the Clerk's Office for such assistance.
- Why do I have to include my name, address and telephone number and sign everything I submit to the court?
If you wish to appeal the court's decision on any order entered in your case, what steps should you take?
There may be times during the pendency of your case in which the Judge issues an order with which you disagree and which you may think an appellate court should review immediately. You should be aware, however, that most orders issued while a case is still ongoing cannot be appealed immediately...
How can one view a case's docket activity?
The Clerk's Office maintains an automated record, or docket, for every case. This docket is a chronological summary of all significant events in the history of the case. For example, each time you file a document or appear for a hearing, an entry summarizing the event is added to the case docket...
Can I use the court's electronic filing system?
The Alabama Middle District does not allow pro se litigants to file using the Electronic Case Filing (ECF) system.
What is the procedure for submitting documents to the court?
You should submit for filing with the Clerk of Court an original of motions or pleadings. It is your responsibility to maintain copies of whatever you have filed with the court for your own records. If you should need copies of a document you have filed, the cost is $.50 a page. Any costs must...
Should one mail or bring filings to the Clerk's Office?
It is not necessary to file your documents in person. If you wish to mail your documents via U.S. Mail or have them delivered by messenger, or by express service (UPS, FedEx), please use this address:
United States District Court Middle District of Alabama One Church...
- What must a certificate of service show?
- Are forms and sample formats available for filing Pro Se?
- Does the court require a specific format for documents that are filed?
Can a complaint or any other pleading to the Judge be in the form of a letter?
The Alabama Middle District does not allow letter pleadings. Please be sure to use proper formats for your pleadings.
What fees or costs are covered under the application to proceed in forma pauperis?
The application to proceed in forma pauperis only applies to the filing fee. Generally, all other costs, for example, attorney fees, transcript fees, etc., will still be your responsibility.
If you cannot afford the costs for filing a new case, how do you proceed?
If you cannot afford to pay the filing fee, you may be allowed to pay the filing fee on a payment plan if you file (1) a motion to proceed IFP, (2) fill out an application to proceed in forma pauperis , and (3) file them with the court (typically filed with the complaint). The Financial...
Does the court accept personal checks?
The court does not accept personal checks. The Clerk's Office accepts money orders, cashiers' checks, and cash. Please note that the Clerk's Office does NOT make or keep change for case payments. Please do not send cash through the mail.
Are there costs involved in filing a new case or for other services?
Yes, there are costs involved. There is a filing fee for new cases, a fee to get copies, and fees for witnessess and mileage, for instance. To see the current fees and other court costs, see the court's fee schedule .
Rule 11 of the...
What happens once the defendant(s) has been served?
Once the defendant has been served with a copy of the complaint, the defendant must file with the court an answer or some response within a specified number of days. Under the rules governing service of process, each defendant is required to provide a copy of the response to the plaintiff.
When must a new case be served on the defendant(s) and who can serve my complaint?
Plaintiffs may not serve the complaint and related documents until the court has issued an order directing the pro se plaintiff to do so.
You must consult Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 4 to determine how to serve each defendant. Rule 4 outlines different rules for...
What do I do after filing the complaint?
After filing the complaint, you should wait to receive instructions from the court about your next steps. You should not serve your complaint on the defendants unless the court tells you to do so. The requirements for serving the complaint are explained in detail in the...
How do you establish (file) your case in our court?
The plaintiff, or person bringing the lawsuit to court, files a complaint. The complaint outlines a problem or reason for the lawsuit, also known as a cause of action. Your complaint should be prepared in English and should be either typewritten or legibly handwritten in black ink using white 8½...
- Is there a simple, step-by-step guide that can help you get started in filing a case?
How long will it take to go to trial?
The length of time it takes for each case to prepare for trial varies and will depend on a number of factors.
Is this the appropriate court to hear your dispute?
Federal courts can only hear certain types of cases. Like all other federal trial courts, this court is only authorized to hear disputes that fall into the following categories:Those that deal with a question involving the United States Constitution; Those that involve questions of federal...
Is there a time limit for filing my complaint (statute of limitations)?
There is a time limit, called a statute of limitations, which is a deadline to bring a claim in a civil lawsuit. Each alleged violation of a law has its own statute of limitations. In other words, if you allege more than one violation of law, each claim has its own statute of limitations, which...
What are motions?
Either party, the plaintiff or the defendant, may request that the court take specific action related to the case. To do so, the party prepares a formal request or what is referred to as a motion. The party then signs the motion, submits it, with a certificate of service, and files it with the...
Can I get back any documents I file with the Clerk's Office?
No. All documents that are filed with the Clerk's Office become part of the court record and usually are not returned. If you attach any exhibits to your filings or other court documents, you should file a copy of the exhibit and keep the original for your records. You should also keep a copy of...
How long do I have to answer once I have been served with a lawsuit?
You should read the summons that was served on you when you received the complaint. The summons will let you know how many days you have to answer. Remember, the Clerk's Office cannot interpret the language in the complaint for you or give legal advice; however, Clerk's Office staff can tell you...
If you decide to represent yourself, what are some basic things to remember?
It is important that you fully understand your obligation to prosecute your case once it is filed or after you have been served.You are required to diligently prosecute your lawsuit. Unless and until you hire an attorney to represent you, it is your responsibility to do everything...
Can you work things out with the persons you think are responsible for your injury?
Consider talking to the people you think might be responsible for causing the problem. People may respond in a positive way if they are approached respectfully and given a real opportunity to talk. They are certain to be less likely to respond positively after being served with a formal...
Are you sure you've been wronged?
Things are not always what they seem at first. Acts that appear to have been done on purpose may have been done unintentionally. Better information may help you decide whether a lawsuit is advisable.