Suing For Claims Under $1000-Pro Se Court

This is Dial-Law with information about suing for claims under $1,500 in Pro Se Court. This information applies only to law in Cook County.

The Pro Se Court is a court where you file a lawsuit without the aid of a lawyer to recover sums of less than $1,500. For example, you can sue for return of an unlawfully withheld security deposit, or for damages to your car or other property, or for payment for work which you have performed and not been paid.

However, you cannot sue in Pro Se Court if your claim does not involve the payment of money, or if you seek a sum greater than $1,500. You cannot sue for divorce, or for an order requiring someone to do something for you.

To file suit in Pro Se Court, go to Room 602 of the Daley Center at the corner of Clark and Randolph Streets in Chicago. You will need to bring the name and address of the person or business you wish to sue. If the business is not incorporated you will need the name and address of the owner of the business. Tell the clerk you want to file a Pro Se Complaint. A staff member can help you fill out the forms. Filing a complaint usually costs between $47.00 and $100.00.

If you complain that someone owes you money, that person may respond that you owe him money. This is called a counterclaim, and the judge can rule on that claim as well. You may retain a lawyer to contest the counterclaim.

Your case probably will be heard within six weeks of the date you file the claim. Trials begin at 9:30 a.m. in Room 1308 of the Daley Center. It is a good idea to be there by 9:00 a.m. You should bring all the documents and witnesses needed to prove your case - for example, your copy of the lease if you want your security deposit back, or the witness who saw the defendant damage your car.

When your case is called, the judge will listen to explanations by both sides. He may ask some questions. Then he will rule either for you or for the defendant.

Before trial, the parties may be given an opportunity to meet with a mediator to resolve their case. Mediators are volunteers; they try to help the parties reach a friendly agreement. They are not judges and do not make decisions. If the dispute is not resolved in mediation, the parties will have a trial, usually on the same day.

If you have questions about Pro Se Court, call the court staff at (312) 443-5626.