Instructions: Writing and Filing a Civil Complaint

This Complaint template can be used by persons who are not incarcerated to file civil lawsuits in the District Court of Nevada. Using this template does not guarantee any result in your case.


You need to file some official court forms with your complaint. These forms are available on the Court’s website at

  • Complaint (see instructions below)
    This is a general complaint template. Other types of complaint templates are available at the Legal Help Centers. Persons who are incarcerated must use a different, official Court form.
  • Civil Cover Sheet (information form for the Court’s internal records)
  • Summons with Proof of Service (the Clerk must sign and stamp the summons you have prepared – the completed summons and complaint will be served on the defendant)
  • Application to Proceed in Forma Pauperis (request that the court waive the $402 filing fee, if you cannot afford to pay it)


  1. Know your deadlines. You have limited time to file your complaint. If you are not sure of the deadline, seek out legal assistance.
  2. Provide basic information. In the Complaint template, instructions are provided in italics to guide you. Please read these, as well as the section in the Handbook for Pro Se Litigants entitled, “Basic Procedures for Filing a Lawsuit,” starting at page 15. Then initial pages of the Complaint, which provide the Court with information about you (the plaintiff) and the person or entity you are suing (the defendant), the law you are suing under, and why this Court is the correct one to decide this case.
  3. Write out the facts. Write a short and simple description of what happened that caused you to file this case. Put each fact into a separate, numbered paragraph. It is usually best to write the facts in the order that they happened. Start with the earliest time and continue until the most recent event. Include where and when each event happened, who was involved, and what role each defendant played. If you need more pages for your facts, a blank page for copying is at the end of this packet.
  4. Write out the claims. A “claim” explains what kind of legal right you are suing about. You may have one claim or several. For each claim, write in the law or right that was violated. Then, write in the name of the defendant who violated that law. Complete your claim by explaining what the law allows or doesn’t allow, what the defendant did to violate that law, and the ways in which you were harmed by what the defendant did. Put each statement into a separate, numbered paragraph. You can briefly repeat facts from your statement of facts. You do not need to include legal arguments or case law.
  5. You may attach documents to the end of this Complaint as exhibits, but it is not required. If you do attach an exhibit, explain what it is and how it supports your claim. Attaching a document to your Complaint does not necessarily mean that it will be accepted as evidence.
  6. Identify your demands.
    • In the Demand for Relief section write in what you would like the Court to do for you.
    • If you would like to request a jury trial at the end of your case, check the boxes for Demand for Jury Trial on the first and last pages. Not all claims go to a jury trial.
  7. Number the pages. Count the number of pages in your final Complaint. In the bottom left corner of each page, insert the page number and the total.
  8. Review and sign. Read your Complaint, making sure all blanks are filled in, and to confirm that all of the statements are true. Each plaintiff must sign the complaint.


  1. Make two copies. Once you have completely filled out and signed your Complaint, Civil Case Cover Sheet, Application to Proceed in Forma Pauperis (if needed), and prepared the Summons for the Clerk, make a copy of each document.
  2. Deliver or mail the original plus two copies of each form to the Clerk’s Office at the federal courthouse where you are filing your case. The Clerk will take the original and the other copy is for you to keep after it is stamped by the Clerk. If you file by mail, include a self-addressed, stamped envelope so that the Clerk can send a copy of each document back to you.
  3. Serve the Complaint. Be sure that the Complaint, Summons, and the documents you received from the Clerk are served on each defendant.
    • If you filed an Application to Proceed in Forma Pauperis and it is granted, the Court will normally order the U.S. Marshalls to serve each defendant.
    • If you did not file an Application to Proceed in Forma Pauperis, you will need to have someone serve each defendant. For more information on service read Chapter 8 of the Handbook for Pro Se Litigants.


  1. Tell the Court if you move. File a notice with the Clerk if your mailing address, email, or phone number changes or you may miss important deadlines, causing you to lose your case.
  2. Check your mail. Check regularly for documents from the Court or the opposing side.
  3. A list of all of the documents that have been filed, and (usually) the documents themselves can be viewed online. Review the section on “Service of Process” of the Handbook for Pro Se Litigants that starts at page 22.
  4. Prepare for what’s next. A complaint only begins the process. There are other resources available, including the Handbook for Pro Se Litigants, to help you understand the next steps in the lawsuit process. The Handbook is for people who are representing themselves and it explains basic court rules and procedures. It was prepared by the Court and is available at the Clerk’s Office an on the Court’s website.


  • Case begins when the Complaint is filed.
  • Complaint, Summons, and other documents served on defendants (ASAP)
  • Defendant responds to the Complaint (usually within 21 days of service)
  • File conference statement and attend conference with judge to set case schedule (within 90 days of filing)