If You Are the Defendant – What to Expect



If you are being sued, you will get a copy of the summons and a copy of the complaint from the sheriff or by registered or certified mail. Read both sides of the complaint and the summons carefully. These court papers will tell you what the case is about and when you have to be in court.  Except in cases involving evictions, you should have received your court papers at least five days before the hearing date on the summons. If you do not, then the magistrate should set the hearing date for another date in the future. At the hearing, you can ask the magistrate for a new hearing date for this reason.

If you think you will need a lawyer’s help to defend your case, talk to one right away. Don’t wait until the last minute to contact a lawyer. This is especially important if a landlord is trying to evict you. If you are a tenant, there are several ways you can be notified of a proposed eviction. Besides receiving a complaint and summons from the sheriff or receiving them by certified mail, these forms can be posted on your home. The sheriff is required to do these things at least two days before the hearing.

The Legal papers posted on your door are important! Pay attention to them and see a lawyer or decide immediately what you are going to do.

You may, if you wish, mail a formal answer to the clerk of court about the complaint or take this written answer to the court. But you can also just wait and tell your side of the story at the trial. You may have a complaint against the person who is suing you. If you want to file what’s called a counterclaim, you will probably need to contact a lawyer. For more on Counterclaims, see the Appendix.

State Law prohibits the Clerk’s Office staff from; providing any legal advice, providing instructions for completing forms, referring an attorney, or recommending specific ways to pursue legal action.

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