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Last updated March 14, 2009

Set Up Your Computer

Don't have a computer? Get one. Don't know how to use a computer? Forget it and get a lawyer.

You will want to create a folder on your computer for your files. Call it something clever like "Legal". Then create sub-folders so you can organize papers by subject matter. Sub-folders like "Complaint", "Reply", etc. These folders will make it much easier to save and locate notes and filings.

Examples of documents are provided. These are examples only. Download the most recent documents for your use.

Search for and download a copy of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (in pdf format). We have a copy of these rules as of December 1, 2007 (click here) it is 166 pages. All federal courts follow these rules. But wait, there's the local rules to consider. Each district has different local rules than govern their actions. You can download these "Local Rules" in pdf format into the "Legal" folder you've created. Put them in a folder called "Rules" or such. You will need to read these rules and learn which ones apply to you and your pleadings. And then, once you've filed your complaint, there are rules individual judges want followed. We didn't say this would be easy. (Click Here to view the Colorado Local Rules to see what they look like. DO NOT use these rules. Download the most recent rules from YOUR district.) Learn the local rules as they apply to exhibits, motions, and the like.

AFTER you have filed the complaint, you will be assigned to a judge. Alomost every federal jusge has his/her own rules for many procedures. Look for the judge's rules and download them as well. (Click Here to view the Local Rules for Judge Walker D. Miller to see what they look like. DO NOT use these rules. Download the rules from YOUR judge afer he/she has been assigned.)

Download from the district court's web page the documents you will need. These forms include, but are not limited to "Waiver of Service", "Civil Cover Sheet", "Summons". For an example of the Civil Cover Sheet used in Colorado, click here. In Colorado you must submit two civil cover sheets when you file.

All filings, including the original complaint, have a court instructed header. For the general format CLICK HERE. The header will be the same for every document you file with the court. The header on your complaint will not have the case number as that is assigned after you pay and file. The case number usually will be followed by an alphanumeric designation for the judge assigned to the case followed by another alphanumeric designation for the magistrate judge assigned to the case.

All courts require double-spaced papers with font size 12 type. Most require an inch border on all sides.When you begin your typing, we suggest you use Word as it used by the great majority of computers. Begin by single spacing your complaint and then double-space it when done. Editing is easier that way, for us at least. Also make sure you "insert" page numbers in the middle of the footer and we suggest you put the paper's title in the footer as well.

Where searching the internet, try using the AltaVista search engine (www.altavista.com) instead of Google or MSN. AltaVista allows you to use exact phrases instead of just words. When you use Google, you enter trademark and infringement and Google gets matches to both or either word. In AltaVista, you can enter "trademark infringement" (in quotes as shown) and AltaVista returns only matches to the phrase "trademark infringement". Very helpful in finding specific legal references. In AltaVista you can search for +"motion for summary judgment", and +"federal court"+"fifth federal circuit", and the search will return only results containg all three of these exact phrases, where Google will only return matches to the nine words used in your search.

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