How to Sue Officials without Using a Lawyer
United States District Court
District of (State)
Civil Docket Number _______
vs. VERIFIED COMPLAINT
Born Ruler, individually and in
his/her official capacity as
Justice of the Superior Court
of [*****] County,
A couple of spaces below, you must begin to spell out your reasons for bringing your complaint to Court.
Make an outline of your case. First, state your "Jurisdictional Basis" in Paragraph I.
I usually write as follows:
I. The plaintiff claims federal jurisdiction pursuant to Article III § 2, which extends the jurisdiction to cases arising under the U.S. Constitution.
Next, you should write Paragraph II stating the precise Statutory Authority why you brought the case. If you are 'suing' a state judge, you will state:
II. Plaintiff brings this suit pursuant to Title 42 U.S. Code § 1983 for violations of certain protections guaranteed to him by the First, Fifth, Eighth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments (select which apply) of the federal Constitution, by the defendant under color of law in his/her capacity as a judge in the Superior Court of (****) County.
If you are suing a federal judge, state:
"Plaintiff brings this action against (name), a federal judicial officer, pursuant to Title 28 U.S. Code § 1331, in claims arising from violations of federal constitutional rights guaranteed in the (fill in) amendments to the U.S. Constitution and redressable pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Narcotics Agents 403 U.S. 388 (1971)."
Be aware that the issue of whether federal judicial officers can in fact be sued under this authority is unresolved, but my opinion is that there is a strong implication in the affirmative based on the language in many cases.
Your complaint should then have a section entitled "Parties". The next two paragraphs would read
III. Plaintiff (Your name) is a natural person residing at (Your address), (County), (State).
IV. The defendant is a Judge presiding at (fill in.)
Following this, you must now describe your claim in detail, giving a legal and factual basis for your case. This portion of the case is entitled "Statement of Case"
What kind of factual pattern would give rise to a successful claim under the federal civil rights law? Title 42 U.S. Code § 1983 reads as follows
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.
The burden of proof is upon the plaintiff to show that the defendant judge acted unconstitutionally or outside of his/her jurisdiction. If the judge engaged in an egregious discrimination against males in a divorce court, minorities in state criminal cases, members of an unpopular religious group in confrontation with government authorities and treated suspiciously in court or members of a "fringe" political group, these situations can give rise to a claim of denial of equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.
If a judge permits an ex parte attachment, i.e. seizure of real estate without giving you notice of a hearing in a state court proceeding, this is a deprivation of property without due process, violating the Fifth Amendment as well as the Fourteenth Amendment.
Ex parte restraining orders forcing men or women out of their homes based on abuse allegations in state courts are a primary and rampant example of violations of constitutional rights today and certainly actionable in federal court.
The first ten amendments of the Bill of Rights are self-explanatory. Violations of any of the rights described in these amendments give rise to causes of action, both against state judges under Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and arguably against federal judges in Bivens actions.
Prose litigants should give a clear and concise description of what happened in chronological order, identifying the judge, the date, time, and place of his or her action, and specifying which acts violated which constitutional amendments.
The complaint finishes with a section entitled "Prayer for Relief." In such a case, you can ask for an injunction ordering another judge to do something or to refrain from doing something. Successful use of these suits has been made to nullify attachments, end incarcerations, declare laws or court practices unconstitutional and scare the heck out of black-robed tyrants with gavels. See Pulliam v. Allen, 466 U.S. 522 (1983).
I often phrase my prayers for relief as follows
wherefore plaintiff prays this Court issue equitable relief as follows
1. Issue injunctive relief commanding defendant to . . .
2. Issue declaratory relief as this Court deems appropriate just.
3. Issue other relief, as this Court deems appropriate and just.
4. Award plaintiff his costs of litigation.
your name printed
City, State, Zip Code
Statement of Verification
I have read the above complaint and it is correct to the best of my knowledge.
Affidavit of Poverty
Justice L. Divine, being first duly sworn according to law, deposes and says:
1. I am the plaintiff in the above-titled action:
2. I bring this action in good faith.
3. This action seeks to enjoin defendants from (whatever wrongful actions they have done giving rise to your complaint) and seeks damages for $ for deprivation of the plaintiff's constitutional rights.
4. I believe that I am entitled to the redress sought in this action.
5. I have read and know the contents of the complaint and believe them to be true.
6. The only money I own is that sent to me by my family for the purpose of personal maintenance. I presently have $_______in my prison account. (See attachment A of this affidavit, which is the Warden's certificate of the amount of money presently in my account)
7. Other than the above money received by me from my family I have no other income and have not worked at a paying job on the outside since
8. Because of my poverty, I am unable to pay the costs of this action, to give security thereafter, or to employ an attorney.
I understand that any statement made by me in the affidavit that is not true and correct to the best of my knowledge and beliefs will subject me to the penalties of perjury.
Justice L. Divine, Affiant Number and address
Subscribed and sworn to before me this day of, 20__
Traverse to the Return
Comes the petitioner Justice Love Divine, for his traverse to respondents Answer, and Return states:
1. Petitioner admits/denies that.......................
2. Petitioner admits/denies that.......................
3. Petitioner admits' denies that.......................
(Under this heading very concisely, summarize why you should be granted relief based upon your legal arguments and the fact of the case, as admitted or denied by both you and the respondent)
WHEREFORE, petitioner prays that the relief he has requested in his petition be granted.
Justice L. Divine, prose
Number and address
Justice Love Divine
Subscribed and sworn to before me
this day of, 20__.
NOTE: Answer each statement of the respondent's Answer paragraph by paragraph. In other words, if the respondent states in paragraph one of his Answers that you were convicted of bank robbery in 20__, paragraph one of your Traverse should state if the respondent's statement is true, that "Petitioner admits that he was convicted of bank robbery in 2006. However, petitioner denies that such conviction is relevant to this action because . . ." If your petition is attacking your sentence or is a motion to vacate sentence under 2254. Alternatively, 2255, you might state something like "Petitioner admits that he was convicted of bank robbery in 2006. However, that conviction is invalid and in violation of the due process clause of the US Constitution because ..."
TO ALL THE ABOVE-NAMED DEFENDANTS:
You are hereby summoned and requested to serve upon plaintiff(s), whose address is____________, an answer to the complaint, which is herewith served upon you, within 20 days after service of this summons upon you, exclusive of the day of service. If you fail to do so, judgment by default will be taken against you for the relief demanded in this complaint.
Clerk of the Court,
NOTE: You can prepare this summons and submit it to the court when you file your complaint or petition. The clerk of the court might or might not use it. You can request as many copies of the court's official summons forms from the court clerk, as you like free. You should use this form, which is based upon the official form since you cannot specify dates, places, and times that must be filled in when you use the official court forms.
1. This is a civil action authorized by 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to redress the deprivation, under color of state law, of rights secured by the United States Constitution. The court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. & 1343. The plaintiff (s) seeks declaratory relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201 and 2202.
2. Plaintiff (state your full name) is and was at all times mentioned in this complaint a prisoner of the (state of_____________) (United States) in the custody of (The__________________ Department of Corrections) (the US Bureau of Prisons). He is presently confined in the (name and full address of the prison).
NOTE: If there is more than one plaintiff, include a paragraph like the one above for each. Specify any differences in the situation of each such plaintiff, e.g. plaintiff Divine has never been considered for parole, or plaintiff Divine is presently confined in the maximum-security section of the prison.
3. Defendant (full name and title) is the (Director/Commissioner, &c) of the ___________Department of Corrections. He is legally responsible for the overall operation of the (Department of Corrections/Bureau of Prisons) and each institution under its jurisdiction, including (name of the prison where you are confined).
4. The defendant (name of warden) is the Warden of (name of prison). He is legally responsible for the operation of (name of prison) and for the welfare of all the prisoners of the prison.
5. Defendant (guard's full name) is a correctional officer of the (Department of Corrections/Bureau of Prisons) who, at all times mentioned in this complaint, held the rank of (position or title of the guard) and was assigned to (name of prison).
6-7-8. (In these next paragraphs state in detail all the facts that are the basis of your complaint. Generally, you want to state what happened, to whom, who did it, when, where, whether it is still happening, &c. See the statement of facts used as an illustration in Chapter III A. Be sure to write your statement of facts in such a way that a person who knows absolutely nothing about prisons will have a good picture of exactly what happened, the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the incident, and will understand such terms as "strip cell", "solitary confinement", "segregation", "good time", etc.
If you want to state facts that are of general knowledge, but that you do not know personally, orifice your statement of that fact with "Based upon information and belief"...
If you are going to use affidavits, documents and/or other materials as exhibits to support each of your factual allegations in your complaint, are sure to refer to each exhibit after you state the fact that pertains to it. For example, "On July 4, 2006, caseworker C. Smith denied my request to have Ms. Justine Jacamar placed on my approved visiting list. (See Exhibit A attached hereto)." Each exhibit should have its own number.
V. LEGAL CLAIMS
9. The facts related above disclose a concerted and systematic effort by defendants and their agents to deprive a plaintiff of constitutionally secured rights, including, but not limited to, those enumerated in the succeeding paragraphs.
(NOTE: This is a general legal claim that your constitutional rights have been violated by defendants. In the next paragraph, you will state each legal claim under a separate cause of action).
VI. FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION
10. In this paragraph, state the clearest and most important right that was violated. State what actions of the defendants violated this right. State how their actions violated your rights. Do not argue or cite cases in these "cause of action" paragraphs. An example of a statement of a legal claim, or cause of action, is: "FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION: Defendants and their agents by denying plaintiff's request to place Ms. Justine Jacamar on his approved visiting list, violated plaintiff's rights to freely associate and express himself with persons of his won choosing secured to him under the First Amendment to the US Constitution".
VII. SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION
11. Defendants and their agents, in denying plaintiff permission to visit with _____________ by refusing to place her on plaintiff's approved visiting list, violated the rights of ___________ to freely associate and express her-self with persons of her own choosing in violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
(NOTE: This Second Cause of Action arises from the same facts as the first cause of action. However, your rights and the rights of the other person affected by prison officials' actions create two or more distinct causes of action. It is important to note all possible causes of action while you are researching so you can intelligently state them. The court might hold that you do not have a constitutional right to associate with anyone you wish but might hold that Justine Jacamar does because she has not forfeited any of her rights because of a felony conviction.)
VIII. THIRD CAUSE OF ACTION
12. Defendants and their agents, in refusing to place ______________ on plaintiff's approved visiting list and thereby prohibiting her from visitation rights with plaintiff, violated both ___________' rights and the rights of plaintiff under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution in that their decision not to allow visitation between plaintiff and _____________ was arbitrary and capricious and not based upon any compelling government interest or any rational relationship to the purpose and exigencies of imprisonment.
(NOTE: You might have three or four completely different causes of action such as a denial of visiting, the denial of due process at a disciplinary hearing and the denial of access to the courts. You first include the facts in the statement of facts, and then you make legal claims like the examples above. For each category of violations break them down into separate and distinct violations category was broken down into three distinct causes of action, above).
13. The plaintiff has no plain, adequate or complete remedy at law to redress the wrongs described herein. The plaintiff has been and will continue to be irreparably injured by the conduct of the defendants unless the court grants the declaratory and injunctive relief which the plaintiff seeks.
(NOTE: This paragraph is necessary if you are seeking any kind of an injunction. This is why the clause "will continue to be irreparably injured" is included. (See Chapter IV. B).
WHEREFORE, plaintiff respectfully requests that this court enter a judgment granting him:
1. A declaratory judgment that the defendants' acts, policies, and practices herein described and complained of violated the plaintiff’s rights under the United States Constitution.
2. A preliminary and permanent injunction which:
a) Prohibits the defendants, their successors in office, agents and employees and other persons in active concert and participation with them from denying plaintiff visitation rights with Ms. Jones.
b) Prohibits defendants, their successors in office, agents and employees and all other persons in active concert and participation with them from transferring plaintiff to any other institution, without the plaintiff's express consent, during the pendency of this lawsuit, or otherwise retaliating against the plaintiff in any way.
c) Required defendant (Director's name) to submit within 90 days of this court's order and declaration of the unconstitutionality of defendants regulations governing visitation procedures and criteria for placing persons on prisoners' approved visitation list a new list of proposed procedures and criteria that comply with this court's declaration and order and the First and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
3. Plaintiff respectfully requests such other and further relief that the court deems to be appropriate and just.
__________________________Justice Love Divine, pro se
Number and address
Justice Love Divine, being first duly sworn according to law deposes and says that he resides at (name and address of the prison); that he is the plaintiff in the foregoing complaint; thereof and that the same are true and correct of his own knowledge except as to the matters therein stated to be alleged on information and belief, and as to those matters he believes to be true.
________________________________Justice Love Divine, pro se
Subscribed and sworn to before me this_________ day of _______, 20__.
Motion for Leave to Proceed on Appeal
on Typewritten Forms
Comes the appellant Justice Love Divine and moves this court for leave to proceed on this appeal on typewritten forms. Appellant, in support of this motion, represents that he is unable, due to his poverty and imprisonment, to have his briefs and other papers printed in standard form as required by the Rules of this court.
Justice Love Divine, prose
Number and address
Motion for Speedy Trial
under the Sixth and Fourteenth
Amendments to the US Constitution
Comes Justice Love Divine, the defendant, and petitions this court for a speedy trial in the above-named case. As the basis for this motion, the defendant would show:
1. On___________, 20__, defendant was indicted in this court on the charge(s) of ____________ in violation of (give the citation to the statute alleged to be violated).
2. On ________________, 20__, defendant was convicted in the (name of court), and sentenced to
years in prison. He is presently confined in (name of prison). A certificate from the (Department of Corrections) (Bureau of Prisons), specifying the conditions of the sentence imposed under this conviction, is attached to this motion as Exhibit A.
3. On or about _______________, 20__, defendant was notified by the (Department of Corrections) (Bureau of Prisons) that a "detainer" had been entered against him by (name of person issuing detainer) of the (name of prosecuting attorney's office) of (state). This detainer notified the (Department of Corrections) (Bureau of Prisons) of the indictment specified in paragraph number 1, supra, and requested that the (name of person issuing detainer) be notified shortly before defendant's release from (name of prison you are in).
4. Since that date, no effort has been made by the (name of prosecuting office that issued the detainer) to finally dispose of these charges.
5. Defendant has made repeated efforts to be brought to trial on the charges specified in paragraph number 1, supra: to wit: letters of ___________, 20__, copies of which are attached to this motion as Exhibit B (C, and D if more than one).
6. Because the indictment has not been acted upon, and the defendant has not been afforded a trial within a reasonable period, his opportunity for a fair trial has been diminished in the following ways:
Here list the ways in which you have been prejudiced due to the detainer. READ THE DETAINER CASES
7. Because the detainer has not been acted upon or removed from defendants records at (name of Prison), his treatment program has been adversely affected in the following ways:
Here list the prison programs that are not available to prisoners with detainers
8. If the detainer is not acted upon, defendant's program in the (name of prison) may be adversely affected in the following ways: _________________________________________________________
9. Defendant desires to have this matter disposed of at the earliest possible date; reserves the option, after subsequent investigation, to present further evidence of the extent to which his/or her right to a fair trial has been fatally prejudiced by the delay in bringing him/her to trial and to make appropriate motions on that basis; and waives his right to challenge his extradition to the basis; and waives his right to challenge his extradition to the State of _____________________________ with respect to this matter.
WHEREFORE, bases upon the circumstances specified in paragraphs 1-8, supra, defendant respectfully submits that he is entitled to be brought to trial immediately, or
IN THE ALTERNATIVE, that the indictment(s) herein described and pending against him/her be dismissed.
Justice Love Divine, pro se
Number and address