Chapter 4: Drafting and Filing the Complaint

Updated 2013

This chapter discusses several basic issues relating to the drafting and filing of a federal court complaint, including the mechanics and strategy of drafting a complaint, as well as selection of parties, alleging facts and framing the request for relief. Sanctions should not be an issue for well-researched and factually-substantiated complaints. Nonetheless, the legal aid attorney should be familiar with the ethical dimensions and standards of filing a complaint in federal court. Indeed, this Manual refers frequently to Rule 11, offers suggestions for complying with the rule, and advises legal aid attorneys to temper zeal and belief in remedying apparent injustices with reflection on the rule’s implications for filing complaints and subsequent papers with the court. Finally, this chapter reviews the mechanics of filing a complaint in federal court and the procedure for filing for in forma pauperis status.

Updated 2013