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|HOW TO NAVIGATE THE COURT SYSTEM|
One of the most difficult things to learn about the court system is how to navigate all of the filings and motions, among other things. Well, the trick to knowing how to do these things is learning the functions of the Clerk of the Circuit Court. The Clerk’s office is in place to assist litigants (people filing lawsuits or responding to them) in organizing all of the paperwork, files, fees and court dates involved in the court system.
Let’s start with filing a lawsuit. How is this done? The initial document needed in order to start a lawsuit is the “Complaint” which, basically, explains what the “Plaintiff” or person filing the lawsuit is complaining about! In other words, what’s the problem and what is the compensation or remedy requested? Who you’re complaining against is the “Defendant.”
If you live in Chicago and you’re filing a complaint, you’re going to go to the Daley Center (50 W. Washington, Chicago), Room 602 for small money complaints and room 801 for big money complaints. If it’s a family matter or something not involving money, you go to room 802.
Once there’s already a live case in the court system, you can obtain a court date by filing a “motion” which is a request that something be done in the case. As you probably know, everything in most cases revolves around a trial – the high point of every case! Most of the action in any case amounts to a bunch of dancing around the trial, asking for various things in a temporary manner or relating to court procedures.
In a domestic relations case, for example, you might file a “motion for temporary support” asking that your ex pay you child support or maintenance (formerly called alimony) while the case is ongoing. You would write out the motion and file it in room 802 of the Daley Center and “spindle up the motion” at the motion counter in that room. First, though, you take about four copies of your motion to the filing counter and get all of them file stamped, leaving the original with the clerk.
What does it mean to “spindle up a motion”??? All of these wacky legal terms do actually have a purpose! After you’ve stepped up to the file counter you bring your remaining copies to the motion desk and request a court date. The motion desk clerk will make sure your motion is file stamped and will assign your case to a court date or ask you if you have a date preference. Usually the soonest you can get to a judge is one week prior to the filing.
You’re also required to file with your motion a “notice of filing” and “proof of service” in which you give notice to the other side in the case that you’re going to court and for what purpose. You must mail a copy of your motion and notice to that party so that they are fully informed of your actions.
If you have any questions, you can check out the clerk’s web page at www.clerkofthecircuitcourt.org or call the clerk at (312) 603-5031.