How to Write a Legal Caption

At the top of every complaint -- and many other pleadings -- is something called a caption. A caption lists the plaintiff's name, the defendant's name, the name of the document, the court where the matter was filed, and the docket number. It sometimes includes the name and the firm of the attorneys handling the matter, as well. If you are writing your own complaint, you will need to create your own legal caption for any documents you submit that require one.

Step 1

Create a Shell for Your Caption

Most every caption uses a similar looking "shell" for displaying the information. It's a good idea to create a blank shell that you can copy and paste to fill in for every pleading you draft during the course of the matter. Below is a typical blank shell that you can copy and paste into a new document using your favorite text editor.

            (district name) DISTRICT OF (state)


(Name of Plaintiff), ) Civil Action No.: _ Plaintiff, ) ) v. ) (Name of Pleading) ) (Name of Defendant), ) Defendant ) ) ____)_____

Step 2

Fill in the Blanks

Once the shell is pasted into a new document, you need to fill in the district court and the state where the court is situated, the first and last name of the plaintiff, the first and last name of the defendant, and the name of the pleading.

Step 3

Add the Caption to Your Pleading

Now that your caption is complete, it needs to be added to the very top of your pleading. Some courts have guidelines for how many spaces the caption must be from the top of the page. Contact the clerk of the court for your court's specific guidelines; some courts will reject your pleading if it does not meet their formatting guidelines exactly, so it is always better to err on the side of caution.

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