Step 2: File your court forms

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'Filing your court forms' means mailing or taking the forms to the courthouse and giving them to the court filing clerk. The clerk will put the original forms in a file that starts the court case, then stamp the photocopies and return them to the person doing the filing. Here's how to do this:

After you have done Step 1 (get and fill in the court forms you need), then:

Make photocopies of the forms and all attachments – one copy for each of the named defendants and one for your files.

REMEMBER: If you are suing a government agency, you needed to first file an administrative claim. If you got a rejection letter from the agency and now want to sue it, you need to attach the agency’s rejection letter to your Plaintiff’s Claim (SC-100). This shows that you already have tried to solve this problem through the agency’s claim procedures.

Then file your court forms. This can be done in one of three ways:

  • In person (By visiting the courthouse, handing the forms to the clerk yourself and paying the appropriate filing fee.)
  • By mail (Make sure you include your filing fees.  Note that  this process can be slower than filing in person if you have made mistakes in completing the forms.)
  • By hiring a forms filing service (For a fee, some companies will take your forms to the courthouse and make sure they are filed and that the filing fees are paid.)

     You may file your forms electronically only in San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties.

You will have to pay a fee when you file these forms.

  • You may pay by cash, check, or money order. For information about filing fees in California, click hereOpens new window
  • To learn what the fee will be, click here.
  • If you have a very limited income, you can ask the judge to excuse the court fees and costs. This is called a "fee waiver."  To find out if you qualify for a fee waiver, click here.

Once the court clerk Opens new window has your forms and filing fees, he or she will:

  • Assign a case numberOpens new window  (You will always use this same case number when submitting forms and documents related to this court case or when calling a court clerk.)
  • Stamp photocopies of all of the forms, and keep the originals of the Plaintiff’s Claim and other papers to put in the court file.
  • Return copies of the forms and attachments to you.

You will keep one set of forms, and you will have the other set of forms given to the defendant(s).  This is called “service of process” Opens new window and there are very special rules about this.

To learn how to “serve” Opens new window your papers on the defendant, click here.


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