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Filing a Case

Filing a case is an important decision with a lot of consequences. Before filing a case, the first question you should ask is, "Is this the right court?" The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida is one of 94 trial courts in the federal court system. Because of “subject matter jurisdiction,” federal courts can decide only certain types of cases.

Generally, this court can hear only disputes that fall into one or more of the following four categories:

  • A dispute that involves a right in the United States Constitution;
     
  • A dispute that involves a federal law (as opposed to a state law or local ordinance);
     
  • A dispute that involves the United States of America (or any of its agencies, officers, or employees in their official capacities) as a party; and
     
  • A dispute between citizens of different states with an amount in controversy that is more than $75,000.

If your dispute does not fall into any of those four categories, you should not file your lawsuit in this court. Instead, consider state, local, or administrative courts (or perhaps arbitration, mediation, or other types of alternative dispute resolution).

If your dispute falls into one of those four categories and you want to proceed in federal (as opposed to state) court, you must decide whether the Middle District of Florida is the correct venue. Generally, you may file a civil case in the district where any defendant lives or where the claim arose (28 U.S.C. §1391). If that district is the Middle District of Florida, you then must figure out the proper division of the Middle District of Florida.

A person filing a case must follow the rules and procedures that govern the court process, including the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (PDF), the Federal Rules of Evidence (PDF), the Local Rules of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, and, if you or the other party appeal the final decision, the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure (PDF) apply.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 prohibits anyone from bringing a claim that is clearly frivolous or meant only to harass someone. If the court determines that you have brought a claim for an improper or unnecessary purpose, it may impose sanctions against you, including ordering you to pay the other side’s lawyer’s fees. If you lose your case, you likely will be required to pay some of the costs that the winning party incurred during the lawsuit. Costs can be expensive.

Federal Civil Case Flowchart

Draft
Complaint
Complete
Cover
Sheet
Pay Fee/File
Cover Sheet
and Complaint
Obtain
Summons
for
Defendant
from Clerk
Serve
Complaint
and
Summons
on
Defendant