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Basic Legal Tips
Free Online Legal Resources
Who needs law school? Skip the $150,000 in additional student loan debt and teach yourself law online for free! All you need is to know is where to look and some basic background on how the legal system operates on basic procedural grounds. Obviously, this hub is not intended to provide legal advice and nothing can substitute for attorney advice when you have a serious legal matter on your hands.
Online Legal Research
Google Scholar - Free case law and secondary sources such as papers and articles
The United States Code - Congress provides all federal statutes in .pdf format for free
Federal Court Forms - Free forms from the federal courts themselves.
Justia - An online resource for legal research
Pacer - Federal court dockets and filings available for public view at $0.10 per page.
Basic Pleadings in a Civil Lawsuit
1. Complaint - the Complaint is the first and main document filed in a civil action which sets forth the plaintiff''s claim(s) and the facts which he or she or it believes exist which support that claim(s). If all of these facts are assumed to be true, then the plaintiff must prevail. However, the point of litigation is for the defendant to contest those facts contained in the complaint. In all courts, the complaint must be served on the defendant to start the proceedings. The summons is a document which tells the defendant that he or she must appear and defend in the action. While states differ on the methods of service, in hand service on the defendant is always good service.
2. Answer- this document is filed by the defendant to admit or deny each paragraph of the Complaint. If you do not deny a paragraph in the Complaint, then the court will deem it conclusively admitted. Therefore, if you are not sure if a fact is true or not, then deny knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to that fact. If you do not answer the complaint or file a motion to dismiss the complaint, then the court can find that you are in default and enter judgment against you. This is bad.
Motion to Dismiss
A motion to dismiss is filed generally at the start of a lawsuit and like the name implies, asks the court to throw the case out of court. As a party with little experience, the most common reason to move to dismiss a lawsuit will be that the court does not have jurisdiction over you. This is called personal jurisdiction. For example, if you are sued in state X and you never set foot in state X and took no actions which had an effect in state X, then you can make a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The important thing to remember about this argument is that it can be waived if you participate in the case without filing the motion. For more information, read Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Discovery is your opportunity to build your case. There are several different tools which you can use to conduct discovery to learn about the other side's case and obtain facts to help you own case.
- Interrogatories - these are written questions to ask the other side. Some courts limit the amount of interrogatories.
- Requests for Production of Documents - ask the other side for any and all document in their possession which relate to the case
- Requests for Admission - these are interesting requests which basically ask the other side to admit facts. If no response is made within a certain period of time, then they can be deemed admitted by the court. Some courts also allow the party who served the requests for admissions to recover costs of having to prove that fact if it is proven later.
- Depositions - this is where you order a court reporter to take down questions that you ask the other side. You can read the party or witness that you are deposing.
Think of these as tools in your toolbox. If one does not work, try another.
My Cousin Vinny on Discovery
Nothing on this page is legal advice. The reader uses this information at his or her own risk. Author has no liability of any kind for the use or misuse of this information. If you have a legal problem, seek legal advice.