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Filing a Civil Action: Required Documents (5/01/2013)
   

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  1. The Complaint. PDF Form-Fillable Complaint. (Addtionally, See Appendix of Forms, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for sample forms)

    Although there are several ways to commence a case in Federal Court, the filing of a complaint is the most common (see Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a), 10(a) and 11). Only the original complaint should be filed with the court. Include the following:

    1. Name of court: United States District Court, District of New Hampshire
    2. Name and address of all parties, in caption form.
    3. Title of the action. If a jury is demanded, include in caption.
    4. A short and plain statement of the grounds upon which the court's jurisdiction depends. Also cite the U.S. Code, if applicable.
    5. A short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.
    6. A demand for judgment for the relief to which the plaintiff claims to be entitled. See RSA 508:4-c for diversity cases.
    7. Jury demand, if appropriate.
    8. Name, address, telephone number and signature of plaintiff's attorney and Bar number.1
  2. The Civil Cover Sheet Accompanying the Complaint: Form JS 44.
    1. Purpose.
      Local Rule 3.1 requires that every initial filing be accompanied by a completed civil cover sheet. The civil cover sheet is only for data reference. It has no legal effect in an action. All pertinent information must be included in the text of the complaint.
    2. 2. Number of Copies Required.
      Only one civil cover sheet is required for each case.
    3. 3. Procedural Format and Directions.
      Instructions for completing the civil cover sheet are located on the reverse side of the JS 44 form. (See attached sample)
  3. Summons.
    1. Preparation by Attorneys.
      The summons is prepared by the attorney filing the new case.2 After the complaint is filed, the Clerk's Office will issue the summons by inserting the civil action number, date, clerk's signature, and seal of the court. The summons is then returned to counsel to make arrangements for service.
    2. 2. Number of Copies Required.
      Only the original summons is required upon the filing of a case. Service copies of the complaint should not be sent to the court. It is counsel's responsibility to attach the proper copies when service is made and note any other attachments.
  4. Waiver of Service.
    Fed. R. Civ. P. 4 was amended (§(d)) in 1993 to provide for waiver of service of a summons. Its purpose is to reduce the costs incurred in service of summons on defendants. (This is not an option for service on the U.S. or any agency or employee of the U.S.) Generally, a plaintiff will send, by first-class mail or other reliable means, a notice of commencement of the action3 and a request for waiver to the defendant along with a stamped and addressed envelope. The defendant signs the waiver4 of service and returns it to the plaintiff who then files it with the court. The defendant, by agreeing to this procedure, is allowed 60 days from the date the request for waiver was sent to answer the complaint.5 If the defendant fails to return the waiver within the time specified, the plaintiff must serve process as otherwise provided in Rule 4. However, for its failure to sign and return the waiver without good cause shown, the defendant may be required to bear the cost of service.

    As the Notice of Lawsuit form has a fill-in blank for the docket number of the case and states that the case "has been filed," when utilizing this method of service, counsel should send the Notice of Lawsuit form to the clerk along with the original complaint. The Clerk's Office will fill in the docket number and return the form to the plaintiff.

  5. Disclosure Statement.
    If the plaintiff is a nongovernmental corporate entity or partnership, a disclosure statement must be filed. See LR 7.1.1.

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Time Limitation for Answer

The following timetable outlines the procedural requirement for the time allowed for the filing of an answer.

Type of Complaint Time to Answer and Reference
1. Complaint against the U.S. or an officer or
agency thereof
60 days, Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(a)
2. Complaint under the Freedom of Information Act 30 days, 5 U.S.C. §552
3. Complaint under the Privacy Act 60 days, 5 U.S.C. §552(a)
4. Asbestos Cases 60 days, Procedural Order
5. All others 21 days, Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(a)

Summary of Requirements for Filing A Civil Action

  1. A $400.00 fee ($350.00 filing fee and $50.00 administrative fee) or in forma pauperis documents (LR 4.2) The case will not be docketed until the filing fee is received or in forma pauperis status is granted.
  2. The original Complaint
  3. A Civil Cover Sheet (one per case)
  4. Summons or Notice of Lawsuit and Request for Waiver of Service Summons
  5. If special action is required at case filing, a motion requesting that action by the court must be filed as a separate document (i.e. TRO, Attachment)
  6. Disclosure Statement if the plaintiff is a nongovernmental corporate entity or partnership

(1)"Of counsel" or attorneys who have not signed the complaint will not be included on the docket of the court. Active association with a member of the bar of this court (Pro Hac Vice Admission/LR 83.2(b)) is required for any attorney who is not a member of the bar of this court.

(2)A summons need not be provided when filing a civil action if waiver of service is being attempted. If waiver of service fails, a summons should then be provided to the court for issuance.

(3)Form 1A, Notice of Lawsuit and Request for Waiver of Service of Summons in the Forms Appendix, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See also AO Form 398, available from the Clerk's Office.

(4)Form 1B, Waiver of Service of Summons, Appendix of Forms, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See also AO Form 399, available from the Clerk's Office.

(5)Different provisions apply if the defendant is outside the United States.

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