Born v. Milwaukee County et al
ORDER signed by Judge J.P. Stadtmueller on 1/9/2018: GRANTING 2 Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Proceed Without Prepayment of the Filing Fee; DISMISSING from action United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and State of Wiscon sin Equal Rights Division; and ORDERING Plaintiff to file an amended complaint by 1/30/2018 or this action will be dismissed for failure to prosecute. (Attachments: # 1 Non-prisoner pro se complaint form and guide) (cc: all counsel, via mail to Susan M. Born)(jm)
Guide to Filing Non‐Prisoner Complaints
Without a Lawyer in The United States District Court for
the Eastern District of Wisconsin
Welcome to the federal district court.
This Guide is intended to help you write and file a complaint. Follow these
steps and your litigation should run more smoothly.
The Guide comes with three attached documents:
(1) a blank complaint form;
(2) an optional blank application to proceed in court without
prepaying the filing fee; and
(3) examples of statements of a claim
You are encouraged to use the form complaint. You are not required to do
so, but using it will help your case move more quickly. In addition, the
examples of statements of a claim may help you write your own claim.
Before you begin, consider whether your case belongs in federal court.
■ Federal district courts generally hear two types of cases:
(1) violations of federal law; and (2) violations of state law
where the parties are citizens of different states and the
amount at stake is more than $75,000.
■ Federal district courts do not review the decisions of
state courts. Do not sue in a federal district court just
because you are unhappy with the ruling of a state court.
Guide – 1
Note to employment‐discrimination plaintiffs:
Before you file a lawsuit for employment discrimination, you are generally
required to ask the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (or
equivalent state agency) to address your claims. If you do not do this, the
defendants may ask the Court to dismiss your case and the Court may do
Contents of Your Complaint
Cases in federal court start with the complaint, and so does this Guide. The
complaint is an important legal document. If you draft it correctly, it will
be short and tell the Court and defendants how your rights were violated.
What to put in your complaint:
Your complaint needs five things. These five parts correspond to the
five sections that you see in the form complaint.
A. Caption and parties. Your complaint must begin with a “caption.”
The caption must include your name as the plaintiff and the names of
the people you are suing (the defendants). (If the defendants harmed
you while doing their jobs, tell the Court the name and address of the
employers, if known to you.) Also, name the federal court in which
you will be filing your complaint. Do not fill in the case number. This
will be done by the Clerk when you file your complaint. From then
on, you should put the case number on papers that you file with the
Court. This helps the Court keep all the papers in each case together.
B. Statement of Claim. The most important part of your complaint is
the “statement of your claim.” Describe briefly the exact problem that
you are complaining about. You should explain five things:
Guide – 2
Who violated your rights. Tell the name of each person who
(2) What each defendant did. Tell what action each defendant took
or failed to take that harmed you.
(3) When they did it. Tell when each defendant harmed you.
(4) Where they did it. Tell where each defendant harmed you.
(5) Why they did it. If you know, tell the Court why each
defendant harmed you.
Explain the “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” and “why” clearly and
simply. Tell the story as if you are telling it to someone who knows
nothing about what happened to you, but put only the important
facts in your statement of the claim.
A short and plain statement helps the judge to review your complaint
quickly and move on to the next step of your case. A long complaint
will take a judge longer to review and understand, and the judge
may tell you to rewrite it. This will delay your case.
You may find it helpful to look at the examples of statements of a
claim. Do not copy these examples or assume that the plaintiffs in
these examples would win their cases. The examples show you how
to write your claim, not what to say in your claim.
You may type or handwrite your complaint, so long as it is legible.
If you cannot finish your statement on the complaint form, you may
continue your statement of the claim on another sheet of paper.
Why your case belongs in federal court (“Jurisdiction”). State why a
federal court can decide your case. There are two main possibilities:
(1) If your case involves a violation of federal law, a federal court
can decide your case, and you should check the first box on the
Guide – 3
form. This box refers to a federal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, the law
that gives federal courts the power to decide cases involving the
violation of federal law.
(2) If your case involves only a violation of state law, you may be
able to check the second box. Generally, in order to check the
second box, all the defendants must be citizens of a state other
than the one of which you (and any other plaintiffs) are a citizen.
In addition, more than $75,000 must be in dispute.
Relief Wanted. Your complaint should include a request for relief—
what you want from each defendant, such as money or some
Jury Demand. If you want to have your case decided by a jury, check
“Yes” in the box provided.
What NOT to put in your complaint:
DO NOT attach a lot of papers or long statements from witnesses. If you
want the judge to know about a fact, just write the fact in your
complaint. The complaint is not the place for proving facts. When the
judge needs proof, you will have a chance to submit it later.
DO NOT include lengthy quotations from statutes, laws, regulations, or
cases. If you want, you may simply list the statute, law, or regulation that
you believe the defendants violated. Later in the case, the defendants or the
judge may ask you to explain in more detail why you think that the
defendants have violated a law. You will then have an opportunity to
quote from statutes, laws, regulations, or cases.
DO NOT include unrelated claims against different defendants. You may
bring the same claim against more than one defendant only if all of the
Guide – 4
named defendants played some part in the same situation that resulted in
the alleged violation of your rights.
Filing Your Complaint
To file your complaint, you must pay a filing fee. The cost of filing a civil
action is $400.00, which includes the $350.00 filing fee and a $50.00
administrative fee. The full $400.00 must be paid at the time the action is
filed. Your check or money order should be made payable to the “Clerk of
If you cannot afford the fee, you may ask the Court for permission to file
your complaint without prepaying the filing fee. Use the form “Non‐
Prisoner Request to Proceed in District Court without Prepaying the Filing
BE SURE to keep for yourself an exact copy of your complaint and any
other document you send to the Court.
DO NOT mail a copy of your complaint directly to any defendant.
Mail (1) your complaint and (2) your check or money order (if you can
afford to prepay the full filing fee) or your Request to Proceed in District
Court without Prepaying the Filing Fee to: Clerk of Court, United States
District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, 517 East Wisconsin
Avenue, Room 362, Milwaukee, WI 53202.
Guide – 5
(for non‐prisoner filers without lawyers)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF WISCONSIN
(Full name of plaintiff(s))
(Full name of defendant(s))
(to be supplied by Clerk of Court)
Plaintiff is a citizen of
and resides at
(If more than one plaintiff is filing, use another piece of paper.)
Complaint – 1
is (if a person or private corporation) a citizen of __________________________________
(State, if known)
and (if a person) resides at
(Address, if known)
and (if the defendant harmed you while doing the defendant’s job)
worked for ___________________________________________________________________
(Employer’s name and address, if known)
(If you need to list more defendants, use another piece of paper.)
STATEMENT OF CLAIM
On the space provided on the following pages, tell:
Who violated your rights;
What each defendant did;
When they did it;
Where it happened; and
Why they did it, if you know.
Complaint – 2
Complaint – 3
I am suing for a violation of federal law under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
I am suing under state law. The state citizenship of the plaintiff(s) is (are)
different from the state citizenship of every defendant, and the amount of
money at stake in this case (not counting interest and costs) is
Describe what you want the Court to do if you win your lawsuit. Examples may
include an award of money or an order telling defendants to do something or to
stop doing something.
Complaint – 4
I want a jury to hear my case.
I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.
Complaint signed this
Signature of Plaintiff
Plaintiff’s Telephone Number
Plaintiff’s Email Address
(Mailing Address of Plaintiff)
(If more than one plaintiff, use another piece of paper.)
REQUEST TO PROCEED IN DISTRICT COURT WITHOUT PREPAYING THE
I DO request that I be allowed to file this complaint without paying the filing fee.
I have completed a Request to Proceed in District Court without Prepaying the
Filing Fee form and have attached it to the complaint.
I DO NOT request that I be allowed to file this complaint without prepaying the
filing fee under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, and I have included the full filing fee with this
Complaint – 5
EXAMPLES OF STATEMENT OF A CLAIM
Statement of Claim (Example 1)
The plaintiff, Timothy Jones, worked for HAL Corporation, a computer
manufacturer, at its Chicago area office from 2007 through 2013. On
December 1, 2013, HAL Corporation fired Jones from his job because he is an
African American. As a result, Jones has suffered lost wages and
humiliation. Jones wants HAL to give him his job back and pay him lost
wages and damages for his suffering.
Sample Claims – 1
Why it happened
Statement of Claim (Example 2)
On December 1, 2013, while plaintiff Samantha Smith was driving her
car in Indianapolis, Indiana, John Steven and Clyde Davis, both city police
Why it happened
officers, stopped her car. The officers had no reason to believe that she had
What else happened
violated any law, but they detained and questioned her for an hour,
embarrassing her as neighbors drove by. Before the officers allowed her to
What else happened
resume driving, they deliberately shoved her into the hood of her car. They did
Why it happened
so apparently because her son recorded the episode. The excessive force caused
a head injury that required medical treatment. Smith wants damages for
the one‐hour detention, her medical treatment, pain, and embarrassment.
Sample Claims – 2
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