Plaintiff's Civil Instructions

Information for Filing Civil Actions in the Justice Court

Remember, every action is your responsibility. This is your case and there are certain steps you must follow to pursue it properly. This information is provided to assist you in general procedure in pursuing your case to conclusion. The clerks in the Justice Court are not attorneys and are not authorized to give legal advice. It is not their responsibility to advise you if you have a legal claim or what you should put on your claim. They are not responsible to advise you of any errors you may make. The court does not take sides nor render an opinion as to the merits of a claim. If you elect to represent yourself you have a responsibility to yourself and to the court to acquire sufficient knowledge to complete the forms properly, and to follow your actions through to the conclusion.

This instruction sheet has been prepared to assist you on how to file a Civil Action in the Justice Court. Forms are available at the civil counter of any Cochise County Justice Court or through Arizona TurboCourt e-Filing Court Forms.

You may file an action in Justice Court involving damages up to, but not including $10,000 (i.e., $9,999.99) [A.R.S. 22-201].

In a civil proceeding, either party may be represented by an attorney. In the Justice Court, Rules of Civil Procedure for the Superior Court of Arizona and Cochise County Local Rules are followed.

You must know the name and address of the party against whom you are filing your action. Be sure that you have the correct party to be sued, especially if you are suing a corporation or business and or one of its employees (see Defendant Information Examples).


The court in which an action is to be filed is determined by where the defendant resides or does business (if you are suing a business), or where the cause of action occurred. The clerks are not responsible to verify whether your filing is correct.


A corporation authorized to transact business in the State of Arizona is required to maintain a statutory agent [A.R.S. 10-501], upon whom the process may be served [A.R.S. 10-504]. The name and address of the statutory agent may be obtained by telephoning the Arizona Corporation Commission in Tucson at 800-345-5819.

When filing against a corporation, it is recommended that you contact the Corporation Commission and obtain the correct corporate name of the corporation, and the name and address of its statutory agent. (Caution: The statutory agent is not the defendant. The statutory agent is the party upon whom service may be made on behalf of the corporation).

Unincorporated Businesses

"Every action shall be prosecuted in the name of the Real Party in Interest [Rule 17(a) R.C.P.]. When filing on behalf of, or against an unincorporated business, it is necessary that the true name or names of the party doing business under that business name be shown as plaintiff or defendant. This information may be obtained by calling the Secretary of State in Tucson at 520-628-6583."

Partnerships may sue, or be sued, in the name which it has assumed, or by which it is known [Rule 17(j) R.C.P.].


The pleading (whether a complaint, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim) shall set forth a short and plain statement that contains (1) The amount due; (2) Why it is due; (3) A demand to receive what is due [Rule 8 R.C.P.].

Filing Fees

Filing fees are payable at the time of filing the complaint.

Service Fee

You should designate the server you wish to employ to perform the service for you. It may be the Constable, Sheriff, or private process service (Process Servers may be located in the yellow pages of the phone book or by calling the Clerk of the Superior Court. The Constable or Process Server may ask for payment in advance or may bill you for the cost of the service. You are to make payment directly to them for the services performed. Process servers are not employees of the court.


The defendant has twenty (20) calendar days from the date of service in which to file an answer in writing to the complaint [Rule 12(a) R.C.P.]. In computing the time in which to file an answer, the date of service shall not be included. If the twentieth day falls on a Saturday, a Sunday, or a legal holiday, the answer may be filed on the next immediate judicial day [Rule 6(a) R.C.P.]. Exception: If served out of state, by registered mail, or by publication, the party so served shall have thirty (30) calendar days in which to answer [Rule 4.2(m) R.C.P.].


If the defendant files a counterclaim in the action, the plaintiff (counter-defendant) has twenty (20) calendar days from the date of service in which to file a reply in writing to the counterclaim [Rule 12(a) R.C.P.]. There is no fee for filing a reply to a counterclaim.

If the counterclaim exceeds $9,999.99 the case will be immediately transferred to Superior Court and appropriate filing fees will be assessed by Superior Court before processing can continue.

Arbitration & Mediation

The following cases may be settled through Arbitration or Mediation:

  • Broken agreements or settlements
  • Business-Customer disputes
  • Employer-Employee disputes
  • Juvenile disputes
  • Landlord-Tenant disputes
  • Other interpersonal conflicts
  • Personal Injury
  • Property Damages
  • Small Claims/Money demand

Arbitration and mediation are methods that use third-party neutrals to settle conflicts as an alternative to litigation. The Court will review each case once an answer has been filed, and if appropriate, will refer the case to Alternative Dispute Resolution to be scheduled for a hearing with a trained, certified arbitrator/mediator from the area.

The Alternative Dispute Resolution Program Office will notify the parties by mail of the time, date, and location for the hearing. At that time, litigants should be prepared to present and defend their case as though they were appearing before the judge.

At the hearing, the parties will be allowed to present evidence and testimony to the arbitrator and he or she will make a decision based on the facts presented during the hearing. If the arbitrator's decision is not accepted by the parties due to an error in law, the case may be appealed by any party and the Court will set a trial date.

However, if during the hearing the litigants are willing, and can work together, the facilitator may assist the parties in crafting a mediated agreement that is mutually beneficial to all parties and resolves the matter without further need for judicial intervention. Mediated agreements cannot be appealed.


For more information, contact:

  • Cochise County Superior Court
    Office of the Court Administrator, Alternative Dispute Resolution Program
    P.O. Box 204, Bisbee, AZ 85603
  • Phone: 520-432-8483

Trial Before a Judge

If your action comes to trial you should educate yourself as to court procedure and what is admissible evidence. As the person who brought the suit, it is your responsibility to prove by the greater weight of evidence that you have a legal right to the amount you are claiming. You must be able to itemize how you arrived at the amount you are seeking.

If you fail to appear at the trial, your complaint may be dismissed, and the defendant may be awarded his or her costs and/or attorney's fees incurred to defend the action.

Default Judgments

If a defendant fails to submit an answer to the complaint within twenty calendar days after service, the plaintiff may apply for an entry of default against the defendant for the purpose of obtaining a Judgment by Default. A default judgment is one that is obtained without a trial because the defendant failed to answer or otherwise defend the action. However, the court may request the plaintiff to furnish proof of the allegations contained in the complaint to substantiate its demand. This proof would be presented at a default hearing or by attaching it to the Application of Default.

If a counterclaim has been filed and the plaintiff fails to reply to the counterclaim within twenty days, then the counterclaimant (defendant) may obtain a default judgment against the counter defendant (plaintiff) on the counterclaim in the same manner as the plaintiff may obtain a default judgment against the defendant on a complaint.

An Application for Entry of Default or Affidavit of Default must be mailed to the defaulting party [Rule 55(a) R.C.P.]. If the party claimed to be in default fails to file a responsive pleading or otherwise defend in the action within ten judicial days of the filing of the application or affidavit, a default judgment will be entered against that party, or a default hearing will be set (plaintiff will be the only one notified of the date).

Service After Appearance

After a party has filed an appearance in an action, unless otherwise ordered by the court, all subsequent pleadings, notices, and orders may be served upon the Attorney of Record or the appearing parties by regular mail [Rule 5(c)(1) R.C.P.].

It is important that each party to action keep the court apprised of his or her current mailing address.

All pleadings filed with the court must also contain the information as to whom and on what date copies were mailed to the other parties.

Appealing a Trial Before the Judge

If you are not satisfied with the trial decision, or judgment, you may file a Notice of Appeal. The appeal must be filed within fourteen calendar days of the date of Judgment. Please refer to Notice of Right to Appeal for additional information.

Enforcing Civil Judgments 

First, make a written demand of the defendant to pay the judgment amount. If the defendant does not pay, the court, at your request, will provide you with papers necessary to garnish the defendant's assets such as bank accounts, wages, or other income property. You must provide the information and fill out and file the necessary forms. The court does not collect for you.

For an additional fee, the Constable can levy on any non-exempt personal property of value if you can furnish a description and location of the property.

Once you are paid in full you must file a Satisfaction of Judgment with the court. This form is available from the court or through Arizona TurboCourte-Filing Court Forms.

If your judgment is the result of an automobile accident and remains unpaid sixty days after the judgment has been entered, notify the Clerk of the Court and he/she will notify the Arizona Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Division, pursuant to A.R.S. 28-4071 and A.R.S. 28-4072.

Should you have any questions concerning the action you have filed, you may call any justice court or go to the Civil Division of any Cochise County Justice Courts to have your questions answered.

Always refer to your case number; cases are filed by number, not by name.

Defendant Information Examples


Defendant: (Name/Address/Phone):

John Smith
111 S Z Street
Tucson, AZ 85701

Sole Ownership

Defendant: (Name/Address/Phone):

John Smith, D. B. A.
Smith's Candy Shop
111 S Z Street
Tucson, AZ 85701


Defendant: (Name/Address/Phone):

ABC Candy Store, Inc.
Serve: John Smith
Statutory Agent
111 S Z Street
Tucson, AZ 85701

Two or More Defendants

Defendant: (Name/Address/Phone):

John Smith; Mary Jones

(If addresses won't fit here, place names here, and names and addresses on the back of the complaint.)

Husband & Wife

Defendant: (Name/Address/Phone):

John and Mary Smith, H/W
111 S Z Street
Tucson, AZ 85701

Serve: John Smith
Serve: Mary Smith


Defendant: (Name/Address/Phone):

John Smith and Joe Jones
Partners D.B.A. XYZ Candy Shop
111 S Z Street
Tucson, AZ 85701

Serve: John Smith
Serve: Joe Jones

Parents of a Minor

Defendant: (Name/Address/Phone):

John and Mary Smith, H/W
Parents of Joey Smith, a minor
111 S Z Street
Tucson, AZ 85701

Revised 05/2010