If you want to sue in the District, fill out a form at D.C. Courthouse, 500 Indiana Ave. NW, stating who you are suing, why and for how much. The fee is $1 plus $1.40 to have the defendant notified by certified mail. The trial date generally is set for two weeks after you file.

Check with the clerk's office a day or two before your court date to make sure the defendant has been notified.

At 9 a.m. on your court date, the clerk reads the calendar of cases scheduled for the day. You must be present when your case is called. The judge begins hearing cases about 10 a.m. If yours is at the bottom of the list, be prepared to wait.

Some cases can be scheduled for Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings.

If you are being sued, you will receive a notice by certified mail or from a U.S. marshal telling you when to appear.If you can't appear on the date scheduled, contact the clerk's office and ask for a different date. MARYLAND

Filing fee is $5 plus $2 to notify the defendant by certified mail or $5 by the sheriff's office. In Montgomery County, District Court offices are in Shady Grove, Silver Spring and Bethesda. In Prince George's, locations are Upper Marlboro, Hyattsville and Oxon Hill.

Court dates may be several weeks after filing. Cases are scheduled for 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. VIRGINIA

Filing cost is $5 to $6, including notification of the defendant. General District Court offices are in Fairfax City, Arlington County and Alexandria.