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How to use the Cook County Pro Se Court for claims up to $3,000

What is the Pro Se Court?

The Pro Se (pronounced “pro-say” and meaning by or for yourself) Court aims to provide prompt and relatively inexpensive hearings for cases worth up to $3,000.

What kind of claims can be filed?

Claims for $3,000 or less for damage to your car; loss or damage to clothing; failure of a landlord to return a security deposit; failure of a tenant to pay rent; failure to make good on a guarantee or warranty; failure to properly repair an item; failure to repay a loan; and other money-related claims.

Other small cases can be filed in small claims court.

Who may sue?

Anyone 18 years or older, or a parent of a minor child who suffered an injury or money loss.

Who may be sued?

Any person, corporation, partnership, company, association or trust.

What do I need to file my lawsuit?

The correct name and address of the defendant; the amount of the claim, including three written estimates for repairs or paid repair bills, if relevant; the dates and all facts pertinent to the case; any leases, receipts, contracts, letters and other papers that explain or prove your claim; copies of all papers you wish to attach to the complaint.

How much does it cost to file?

Filing fees and costs are subject to change, but here’s the current schedule: $119 to file for claims up to $250, $172 for claims between $251 and $1,000, $177 for claims over $1,000 and up to $2,500, and $227 for claims $2,501 to $3,000. There are additional fees to send a summons by certified mail or to have the summons served by the sheriff’s office.

What should I bring to court?

Any witness who can help you, plus any relevant documents such as leases, contracts, sales or rent receipts, letters, repair bills or estimates, cancelled checks, photos, damaged merchandise, etc.

Can I bring a lawyer to court?

The person filing the complaint is the plaintiff and typically represents himself or herself. However, if the defendant chooses to appear with a lawyer, the plaintiff also may get a lawyer -- and then the case gets transferred to another courtroom.

Where can I find more help?

The Pro Se staff can be found in Room 602 in the Richard J. Daley Center, Clark and Randolph streets, Chicago. Their phone is (312) 603-5626. Make sure you speak with the Pro Se staff before filing your claim.

SOURCE: Clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court

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