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Pleadings: Home

A guide designed for the University of Missouri School of Law 1L students in Advocacy and Research.


What is a pleading?

"Pleadings get the lawsuit started, usually stop the running of the statute of limitations, and frame the issues involved in the lawsuit."
Thomas A. Mauet, in Pretrial, 7th ed.

In federal court claims (including those arising out of Missouri), the first pleading in a lawsuit is called a complaint.

In state court claims in Missouri, the first pleading in a lawsuit is called a petition.

Defined by Black's Law Dictionary:

Pleading: In federal civil procedure, the main pleadings are the plaintiff’s complaint and the defendant’s answer. Black’s Law Dictionary 1191 (8th ed. 2004).

Petition: In some states [including Missouri], the first pleading in a lawsuit. [Other states and the federal system use the term complaint.] Black’s Law Dictionary 1182 (8th ed. 2004).

General Pleading Requirements: Missouri

Federal Court Websites

The Missouri Federal Courts offer rich websites with court rules and fillable forms.

Missouri State Courts

Missouri Form Books

Federal Form Books

Additional Sources

Multiple sources contain pleadings samples including Causes of Action, Wright and Miller's Federal Practice and Procedure, and Mo Bar CLEs.  These books are written for different purposes but include sample pleadings within substantive topic areas.

Strategies for Finding Sample Pleadings on Topic

Case in Hand Method:
When reading a particular case on Lexis Advance and WestlawNext, a link to available related documents is sometimes provided. Coverage to these documents is limited, but when available they generally include PDFs of dockets, briefs, other pleadings, and orders. The types of available documents will vary widely, depending upon the jurisdiction and time period of the case.

Bloomberg Law: Bloomberg Law has the most robust federal docket material available to MU Law students.  If you don't have an account already, request one at .  Users can search for dockets in several ways including the main Go bar (search bar at the top) or through the Litigation/Dockets tab on the front page. 

Bloomberg Law pulls this content from PACER (see below) .  If a docket has not yet been pulled from PACER, it could still be available. Some documents are not always available for a variety of reasons including privacy concerns.

PACER: The Federal Judiciary’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system provides an electronic public access service that allows users to obtain filings from recent United States District Courts, Bankruptcy Courts and Courts of Appeals cases.  PACER charges per page for each document accessed, and only users with established accounts and passwords can access. 

Westlaw Databases:
PLEADINGS:  Trial Pleadings
FILINGS-ALL:  State and Federal Civil Trial Court Filings (use advanced search)
MO-FILING-ALL:  Missouri State and Federal Civil Trial Court Filings (use advanced search)
MO-FILING:  Missouri Civil Trial Court Filings (use advanced search)

LexisNexis Advance:

Click Browse > Sources> By Category > Briefs Motions and Pleadings. Use filters to choose jurisdiction and narrow your search.  Note:  As of 1/2015 Lexis Advance does not have trial court documents.