Legal Eagle Question: "First Papers" - what besides complaint? Help!

For reasons I cannot go into publicly, I very much need the following question answered:

In California specifically, is there anything OTHER than a complaint that can initiate a proceeding? (Not family law, I understand petitions are used there). If I need to get a judge to do something, but it isn’t about SUING someone, what kind of “first paper” can I use?

And if there is ONLY complaints…I’ve scoured the Calif. Causes of Action book and nothing seems to fit my category. Is there a “miscellaneous” category? (Again, can’t speak publicly about detail, please don’t ask publicly)

IANA California lawyer. IANYL. If you’re going to be so secretive, I’d suggest you seek local counsel, and quickly.


The type of initial proceedings you wish to follow depends largely on the cause of action which are seeking redress from the courts, e.g. warrant issue, ex parte decisions, summons, all matters of probate or civil suit, etc. There is no easy answer without consulting local counsel. I haven’t been in court in 8 years. However, I do know when I was in a bind for a form, I would ask the clerk. However, you have to be sure where your court of original jurisdiction is. For instance, depending on the matter, you might be before a magistrate or even a administrative board. It all depends on what action/redress you are seeking.

I don’t think he’s admitted in California.

Have you poked around at all? I haven’t used them but they’re a pretty standard recommendation for pro se filers.

I don’t know about California, but there are a variety of papers that can be used to initiate an action in New York, including Summons and Complaint, Summons and Notice (sort of a simplified complaint), Notice of Petition and Petition, Order to Show Cause and Petition, Summons and Notice of Motion (with motion papers).

If you’re doing something that requires a court order but doesn’t necessarily have an adverse party, like a name change, for instance, in New York it would probably be a special proceeding for which you’d probably use a Notice of Petition and Petition. I, of course, know nothing of California procedure, but you may want to look up something like a name change and see what is required.

Some courts may have something like an “office of the self-represented” or “pro per se office” in the clerk’s department who may be able to assist you in understanding the proper papers. You may also want to look on the court system’s web site. For instance, the Supreme Court (the perversely named general trial court in New York) in Manhattan has a very detailed explanation of its procedures and many of the forms used on line. Your local court may have have something similar.

Good luck.