Whenever you want something from the court, you write a letter to it. The letter has a specialized format, namely a caption at the top and particular spacing, etc., all according to the court rules. Letters to the court have special names. They are called complaints, actions, petitions, motions, briefs, points & authorities, proof of service, etc. The court also writes letters to the parties. Letters from the court are more flexible in format and are usually called notices, minute orders, rulings, orders, judgments, etc.

Writing a letter to a court is always with a purpose. Why write the letter if you don't want to accomplish something? The first letter to the court is typically called a complaint, action, or petition. Later letters are usually called motions, appeals, requests.

In an action at law all elements are present. In a complaint in equity, the facts and law are missing and are provided later. Typically, in a complaint in equity the actual facts are withheld and presented later in discovery, a deposition, or at trial. But ultimately, all elements must be present before a court can issue a judgment.

An action at law could consist of the following:

  1. Identification of parties and choice of forum
  2. Summary of the case
  3. Facts
  4. Law of the case
  5. Cause of action (One of 11 common law claims you're making against the defendant)
    1. Duty of defendant (law)
    2. Breach of Duty
    3. Injury
    4. Damages
  6. Proposed Judgment (usually called the "Prayer")

  7. Summons (issued by the clerk)
  8. Proof of service (a form usually included with the summons)
A motion to move the court to do something could consist of the following:

  1. Notice of Motion
  2. Motion
  3. Facts (affidavit or declaration)
  4. Law of the case
  5. Brief (Points& Authorities)
    1. Point(s) being made
    2. Authorities supporting the jurisdiction, applicable law
    3. Argument in support of the point (This is where you connect all the law, facts, and reasoning
  6. Proof of service (so the court knows who got a copy)
  7. Proposed Order ready for signature
    (so the court won't have to type it if granted)
    (Normally attorneys may not submit order unless so instructed by the court).