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Criminal Complaint legal definition of Criminal Complaint complaint definition legal


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The Pleading that initiates a civil action; in Criminal Law , the document that sets forth the basis upon which a person is to be charged with an offense.

Civil Complaint

A civil complaint initiates a civil lawsuit by setting forth for the court a claim for relief from damages caused, or wrongful conduct engaged in, by the defendant. The complaint outlines all of the plaintiff's theories of relief, or causes of action (e.g., Negligence , Battery , assault), and the facts supporting each Cause of Action . The complaint also serves as notice to the defendant that legal action is underway. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure govern construction of complaints filed in federal courts. Many state courts follow the same rules as the federal courts, or similar rules.

The caption opens the complaint and identifies the location of the action, the court, the docket or file number, and the title of the action. Each party to the lawsuit must be identified in the caption and must be a real party in interest, that is, either a person who has been injured or harmed in some way, or a person accused of causing the injury or harm. In addition, a party must have the capacity to sue or to be sued. If a party lacks capacity owing to mental incompetence, for example, the suit may be dismissed. Any number of parties may be named and joined in a single lawsuit as long as all meet the requirements of capacity and all are real parties in interest.

Courts of limited–subject matter jurisdiction, such as federal courts, require the complaint to demonstrate that the court has jurisdiction to hear the case. In general-jurisdiction courts, such as most state courts, a jurisdictional allegation is unnecessary.

The most critical part of the complaint is the claim, or cause of action. The claim is a concise and direct statement of the basis upon which the plaintiff seeks relief. It sets forth the Rule of Law that forms the basis of the lawsuit and recounts the facts that support the rule of law. Finally, the claim concludes that the defendant violated the rule of law, thereby causing the plaintiff's injuries or damages, and that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. For example: A negligence claim might begin with a statement that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff; that the defendant breached that duty; and that, as a result, the plaintiff suffered injuries or other damages. The conclusion then states that because the defendant's breach was the cause of the plaintiff's injuries, the plaintiff is entitled to compensation from the defendant.

The complaint may state separate claims or theories of relief in separate counts. For example, in a negligence case, count 1 might be for negligence, count 2 for breach of Warranty , and count 3 for Fraud . Each count contains a separate statement of the rule of law, supporting facts, and conclusion. There is no limit to the number of counts a plaintiff may include in one complaint.

Federal courts and other jurisdictions that follow the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require a brief, simple pleading known as a notice pleading. The notice pleading informs the defendant of the allegations and the basis for the claim. The rules require that the complaint contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" (Fed. R. Civil P. 8[a]). Rule 8(c)(1) states, "Each averment of a pleading shall be simple, concise, and direct."

Following the claim, the prayer for relief or demand for judgment appears. Commonly called the wherefore clause, the prayer for relief demands judgment for the plaintiff and relief in the form of the remedies the plaintiff requests. The plaintiff may demand relief in several forms. Money damages are compensation for injuries and loss. General money damages cover injuries directly related to the defendant's actions—such as pain and suffering, or emotional distress. Special money damages arise indirectly from the defendant's actions and may include lost wages or medical bills. The court awards exemplary or Punitive Damages when the defendant's actions are particularly egregious. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant and deter similar wrongdoing. Other types of damages are recovery of property, injunctions, and Specific Performance of a contractual obligation. The plaintiff may demand alternative relief or several different types of relief, in the same complaint (Fed. R. Civ. P. 8[a]).

A demand for a jury trial may be included near the end of the complaint. The complaint must be signed by the plaintiff's attorney, indicating that the attorney has read the complaint; that it is grounded in fact, to the best of the attorney's knowledge, information, and belief; and that it is brought in Good Faith .

Criminal Complaint

A criminal complaint charges the person named or an unknown person with a particular offense. For example, after the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, authorities issued a john doe complaint, charging an unknown person or persons with the crime.

A criminal complaint must state the facts that constitute the offense and must be supported by Probable Cause . It may be initiated by the victim, a police officer, the district attorney, or another interested party. After the complaint is filed, it is presented to a magistrate, who reviews it to determine whether sufficient cause exists to issue an arrest warrant. If the magistrate determines that the complaint does not state sufficient probable cause, the complaint is rejected and a warrant is not issued. In federal court, the complaint is presented under oath (Fed. R. Crim. P. 3).

Further readings

Federal Employees News Digest, eds. 2000. Whistleblowing: A Federal Employee's Guide to Charges, Procedures, and Penalties. Reston, Va.: Federal Employees News Digest.

Kahan, Jeffrey B. 2001. "How to Prepare Response to Complaints." Los Angeles Lawyer 24 (April).

McCord, James W.H. "Drafting the Complaint: Defending and Testing the Lawsuit." Practising Law Institute 447.


Civil Procedure .


n. the first document filed with the court (actually with the County Clerk or Clerk of the Court) by a person or entity claiming legal rights against another. The party filing the complaint is usually called the plaintiff and the party against whom the complaint is filed is called the defendant or defendants. Complaints are pleadings and must be drafted carefully (usually by an attorney) to properly state the factual as well as legal basis for the claim, although some states have approved complaint forms which can be filled in by an individual. A complaint also must follow statutory requirements as to form. For example, a complaint must be typed on a specific type of paper or on forms approved by the courts, name both the party making the claim and all defendants, and should state what damages or performance is demanded (the prayer). When the complaint is filed, the court clerk will issue a summons, which gives the name and file number of the lawsuit and the address of the attorney filing the complaint, and instructs the defendant that he/she/it has a specific time to file an answer or other response. A copy of the complaint and the summons must be served on a defendant before a response is required. A complaint filing must be accompanied by a filing fee payable to the court clerk, unless a waiver based on poverty is obtained. (See: pleading , caption , answer , service of process , summons , in forma pauperis )


noun   accusal , accusation , allegation , bill of indictment , case , case for the prosecution, charge , citation , count , crimination , criticism , denouncement , denunciation , expostulation , first pleading , formal allegation , gravamen of a charge , grievance , incrimination , indictment , information , information against , litigation , main charge , objection , particclar charge, petition , plaint , plaintiff's initiatory pleading, pleading in a civil action , preferment of charges , prosecution , protest , protestation , querimonia , remonstrance , statement of the plaintiff's cause, substance of a charge
Associated concepts:  bill of complaint , petition , cross commlaint, verified complaint See also: accusation , allegation , blame , charge , claim , condemnation , criticism , denunciation , disapprobation , disapproval , disorder , disparagement , dissatisfaction , exception , grievance , ground , impeachment , incrimination , indictment , objection , outcry , plaint , pleading , protest , reproach


1 the start of a civil action in a magistrate's court. 2 an allegation against another. 3 the name of the papers used by the court and served on the accused in Scottish summary criminal proceedings.

COMPLAINT, crim. law. The allegation made to a proper officer, that some person, whether known or unknown, has been guilty of a designated offence, with an offer to prove the fact, and a request that the offender may be punished.
     2. To have a legal effect, the complaint must be supported by such evidence as shows that an offence has been committed, and renders it certain or probable that it was committed by the person named or described in the complaint.

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complaint definition legal

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us digital millennium copyright act Skip to Main Content DCA Entities | Disclaimer | About Us | Contact Us   Consumers Consumer Complaints Consumer Connection License Search More... Media Press Releases Webcasts Publications Consumer Connection Magazine Consumer Publications Legal Guides More... Online Services File a Complaint License Search BreEZe More... Consumer Complaint Disclosure Recommended Minimum Standards for Consumer Complaint Disclosure Introduction

The Department of Consumer Affairs is committed to ensuring consumers are provided information about consumer complaints in a timely, fair and equitable manner.

The standards set forth in this document are intended to set a recommended minimum standard for disclosing information concerning complaints filed by consumers. They are not intended to replace the overall disclosure practices of the various agencies throughout the Department. Rather, they are offered as a model for how to handle the disclosure of information that meets certain criteria. Constituent agencies within the Department are responsible for reviewing these standards to determine how they can be incorporated into existing disclosure practices.

Public Records Act and the Information Practices Act

The Public Records Act (PRA) (Government Code Section 6250) states that "access to information concerning the conduct of the people's business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state." The PRA provides for maximum public access to information in the government's possession. It also provides that disclosure of information about consumer complaints may be subject to public disclosure. The standards outlined in this document are consistent with the intent of the PRA and the Consumer Affairs Act, which establishes one of the Department's most important consumer protection mandates: "educating and informing the consumer to ensure informed consumer choice in the marketplace." In light of the PRA and the Consumer Affairs Act, the Department believes there is a compelling state interest to disclose information regarding consumer complaints as soon as practical to help consumers make informed decisions.

The Department notes that while the Information Practices Act (IPA) and Article 1, Section 1 of the California Constitution place limitations on releasing personal information, they do not preclude the Department from releasing information about consumer complaints. It is the Department's view that disclosing the fact that a consumer complaint exists is consistent with the personal privacy protections at issue in the IPA, as those privacy rights apply to personal identifying information, not to information related to the conduct of business.

In keeping with the maximum disclosure intent of the PRA and the Consumer Affairs Act, it is the policy of the Department to provide consumer complaint information to consumers consistent with the following standards.

Public Access to Consumer Complaint Information

The Department and its constituent agencies are responsible for establishing policies and procedures to implement the standards set forth in this document.

Because the Department has a broad consumer protection mandate, it receives consumer complaint information about businesses not directly regulated by the Department. This information is typically received from consumers via the Department's Consumer Information Center, Office of Privacy Protection and the Arbitration Certification Program. The Department may choose to make available to consumers, in the same manner, such consumer complaint information.

Conditions of Disclosure

Consumer complaint information shall be disclosed in the Consumer Complaint History report when an Executive Officer or Chief, or his or her designee, has determined that:

the complaint will be referred for legal action. the business has been provided an opportunity to respond to the complaint, a probable violation of law has occurred or there is a possible risk of harm to the public, and a substantiated consumer transaction has occurred,

A substantiated consumer transaction is defined as a bona fide financial transaction between an individual customer or patient and a business or licensee to procure and sell goods or services.

A Consumer Complaint History report shall not disclose information about a complaint if it is determined that:

the complaint is without merit, the complaint involves a non-consumer matter (e.g., labor grievances, labor relations, tax matter, etc.), or disclosure is prohibited by statute or regulation.

A Consumer Complaint History report should not disclose information about a complaint if it is determined that:

disclosure might compromise an investigation or prosecution, or disclosure might endanger or injure the complainant. Contents of Consumer Complaint History Reports

The Department and its constituent agencies shall establish and maintain a Consumer Complaint History report, a template for which will be provided by the Department. The Consumer Complaint History report shall contain information about consumer complaints and may contain other public information that may be useful when making consumer decisions as outlined below. Copies of actual consumer complaints will not be provided under this policy.

Consumer Complaint History reports and technical language relating to the disciplinary process shall be presented in a manner that is easy for consumers to understand.

The Consumer Complaint History report shall include:

license status and history, total number of complaints meeting the conditions of disclosure listed above, date and nature of the complaints, a description of how the business responded to the complaints, current status of the complaints, including information regarding any referral legal action, administrative disciplinary action, or criminal prosecution, total number of disciplinary, enforcement and public corrective actions taken by the agency, brief summary of disciplinary, enforcement and public corrective actions taken by the agency, information which is statutorily mandated to be disclosed, any additional public information available that may be useful to consumers when making consumer decisions, and a description of the type of public information not included in the report, i.e., civil judgments, criminal convictions, unsubstantiated complaints Disclaimers indicating the report does not constitute endorsement or non-endorsement of a business, and that the report may not contain all available information.

The report shall not include any personal information.

Disclosure of pending complaints and cases against businesses under investigation or in the process of legal action shall contain a disclaimer stating that the complaint(s) against the business is/are alleged and no final legal determination has yet been made. The report may also include further disclaimers, or cautionary statements, regarding such pending cases. Citations and Notices of Violation that have been corrected or resolved shall be reported as such.

A complaint that is determined to meet the criteria listed above should be incorporated into the Consumer Complaint History report as soon as possible, but no later than ten working days after the Conditions of Disclosure are met.

Responding to Consumer Requests for Information

The Department and each of its constituent agencies shall develop procedures for responding to consumer inquiries about businesses. These procedures will ensure consumers are informed of all of the information available through the Consumer Complaint History.

Consumer Complaint History reports shall be made available on the Internet, in writing, and by telephone, to the extent required or permitted by law. Any person may request a Consumer Complaint History report by telephone, in person, or in writing (including fax, email, and Internet). Such requests for information shall be responded to within ten working days.

UBS Lawsuit Hinges on Definition of Solicitation By  Rita Raagas De Ramos July 12, 2017

Legal strife between UBS and some of its former brokers has brought into sharp focus the risks advisors face when leaving a wirehouse and taking clients with them – and might serve as a cautionary tale for other advisors with itchy feet.

At issue is whether a departing team violated non-solicitation agreements, among other things, to poach clients from UBS. That UBS would take such high-profile legal action against former brokers is notable because the wirehouse was one of the founding signatories of the Protocol for Broker Recruiting , which since 2004 has permitted brokers under certain circumstances to take some client information with them without getting sued.

UBS “definitely has a leg to stand on” with the lawsuit and temporary restraining order request it has filed separately against a team of four ex-UBS advisors who have decided to go independent, says one expert securities lawyer and longstanding industry arbitrator. But the ultimate ruling could swing either way and both parties will be hurt in the process, he says.

The defendants in the UBS lawsuit and TRO request – Phil Fiore, Jeff Farrar, Louis Gloria and Thomas Gahan – operated as partners of the FDG Group at UBS prior to forming their new RIA, Procyon Partners, in Shelton, Conn. While at UBS, the advisors oversaw $8 billion in institutional assets and more than $400 million in private wealth assets on both a non-discretionary and discretionary basis, according to Dynasty Financial Partners . Procyon is now part of the Dynasty RIA network, which means Procyon relies on Dynasty for analytics and operational support. Chris Foster was also with FDG and is also now with Procyon, but he is not named as a defendant in the UBS lawsuit and TRO request.

“The protocol doesn’t trump all sins ... It won’t protect you if you’re misrepresenting the situation.” Dennis Concilla Carlile, Patchen & Murphy

Fiore founded Procyon earlier this year and was joined by the other ex-UBS advisors in early June. Fiore was apparently fired from UBS in November 2016 after the wirehouse supposedly concluded that while on heightened supervision he violated various firm policies – including not disclosing he served as an unpaid director of a not-for-profit entity, not seeking approval to run a charity golf tournament or write blog posts, and “not disclosing that a new client had an investment” in his “approved outside business,” according to Finra’s BrokerCheck records .

UBS filed the lawsuit on June 16 before a District Court in Connecticut – three days before Dynasty’s announcement that Procyon has joined its network.

In the lawsuit UBS claims the four advisors breached non-solicitation provisions, misappropriated UBS’s trade secrets, violated Connecticut’s unfair trade practices act, breached their own fiduciary duties and engaged in unfair competition. UBS says in the lawsuit that the four advisors’ non-solicitation agreements were valid for one year after the end of their employment from the wirehouse.

UBS’s TRO request is directed at stopping the four advisors “and all persons acting in concert with them” from soliciting – whether directly or indirectly – clients serviced by or known to Fiore and other advisors who were part of FDG.

UBS has also initiated Finra arbitration proceedings against the defendants.

Bill Singer

“Forgetting that [the plaintiff] is UBS and it’s a multimillion dollar company, it’s still a garden-variety employment dispute that not only occurs on Wall Street but also occurs in many other industries,” says Bill Singer, a New York-based lawyer who is of counsel at Gusrae Kaplan Nusbaum. He says he also has been an independent arbitrator for more than 20 years, including with the National Association of Securities Dealers, the New York Stock Exchange and the American Stock Exchange arbitration panels.

He says the crux of the case will be proving that solicitation has taken place – and that hinges on how the court defines solicitation. Singer defines it as the act whereby a broker initiates a communication with a client at a former firm to persuade the client to leave the former firm and join the new firm.

“If you sign the non-solicit agreement, you can’t communicate with somebody for the purpose of inducing them to come over to your new firm,” he says – but “the courts and a lot of high-priced lawyers understand that solicitation doesn’t mean every communication.”

In the present case UBS takes umbrage with a June 2 email with the subject line “Exciting News: The Team of FDG Group is Now Procyon Partners” that the four advisors sent to “clients, friends and family.”

Singer says it’s “open to interpretation” whether or not the email was solicitation.

“Given the nature of these client relationships – particularly when you’re dealing with institutional accounts or high net worth individuals – it’s always possible to explain away a communication,” he says, by arguing the advisor wrote or called the client simply to say he was no longer at the firm and has a new firm.

While most of the contents of the email served simply as an introduction to Procyon, Singer says one particular paragraph is most open to interpretation: “Our team will be reaching out to you in the coming days to discuss any questions you may have about this change, including details about the smooth transition of your accounts to our new custodian partner, Schwab Advisor Services , if applicable.”

For his taste, Singer says that section goes “a little bit too far over the line.” But he can see how the defendants can argue it’s not solicitation. A strong argument could be made the communication was generic; the advisors were simply letting their clients, friends and family know that “they’re available to help with transitions, but they are not pressuring clients to follow them.”

“They haven’t sent clients an account transfer package. There’s nothing in this letter that says they are going to offer cheaper services or better services. So to some extent this is like getting a notice from a family friend that their daughter is marrying. It’s not an invitation, it’s a notice,” he says, intimating that this is an argument the advisors might make in defense of the suit.

He adds that if the email is proven not to be a communication of solicitation, then any response from UBS clients also would not constitute the product of solicitation; if clients switch from UBS to Procyon no law or agreement has been broken.

However, UBS claims that in addition to the email, the defendants “have made phone calls to UBS clients, including multiple clients defendants Farrar, Gloria and Gahan did not introduce, soliciting the clients to move their business to Procyon,” according to the complaint.

UBS also claims the defendants are misleading clients by giving them the impression that the entire FDG Group has moved to Procyon, citing the text “The Team of FDG Group is Now Procyon Partners” in the subject of the June 2 email, references previously made by Procyon on its LinkedIn page, and phone conversations with clients.

Looking forward to possible outcomes of the lawsuit, Singer believes the case will hurt both UBS and the defendants. But he thinks it’s more harmful to UBS.

“I think it poses a problem for UBS. This is immolation; UBS and the industry are pouring lighter fluid, setting it on fire and standing in the middle of it when they pursue actions like this against ex-high-producing advisors,” he says.

Singer says brokers and advisors at UBS are most likely wondering about this case and contemplating what to do when their relationship with UBS is up for renewal. “It sows fear of reprisal rather than serves as a deterrent,” he says. And the lawsuit could also make individuals considering joining UBS – especially high-producing advisors – think twice about joining the wirehouse.

A solution is already in place to help protect financial advisory firms and registered representatives from what had become excessive recruitment-related litigation in the early 2000s, and that’s the Protocol for Broker Recruiting. The protocol governs the use of client information when registered representatives move between firms that are signatories to the protocol. It was originally signed in 2004 by UBS Financial Services , Citigroup Global Markets , and Merrill Lynch , Pierce, Fekner & Smith. There are currently more than 1,600 signatories to the protocol – including Procyon, which joined May 26, 2017.

The protocol states that when registered representatives move from one firm to another, and both firms are signatories to this protocol, they may take the following account information: client name, address, phone number, email address, and account title of the clients that they serviced while at the firm, and nothing more. Brokers are prohibited from taking any other document or information.

The protocol also states that registered representatives that comply with this protocol would be free to solicit customers that they serviced while at their former firms – but only after they have joined their new firms.

Dennis Concilla, Columbus, Ohio-based head of Carlile, Patchen & Murphy’s securities litigation and regulation practice group, says the protocol “serves as a covenant not to sue” and it “overrides” non-solicitation agreements.

Concilla, who specializes in employment arbitration and regulation, spoke to FA-IQ about the protocol in general terms but declined to comment specifically on the lawsuit and TRO filed by UBS against the defendants.

“There has been a substantial reduction in the amount of litigation that takes place because of the protocol but it hasn’t eliminated it. There are still issues that are raised,” he says.

Concilla says the protocol could be set aside if any of the rules weren’t followed correctly, if there was any misrepresentation to clients, or if the departing brokers solicited clients they weren’t responsible for bringing to their old firm. He adds that there are also “additional considerations” that could overrule the protocol – such as when firms require their brokers to sign agreements that state they are waiving their right to be covered by the protocol.


“The protocol doesn’t trump all sins,” he says. “For example, the protocol won’t protect you if you’re misrepresenting the situation of your departure from a firm because that would violate the fair and equitable principles of trade rules.”

Concilla says Finra’s arbitration panel “will determine if the protocol was followed correctly”.

Singer says in the UBS case the arbitration panel could decide either way, and it would be “pointless to speculate” on how they would rule.

In April a Finra arbitration panel ruled against Wells Fargo Advisors in its claim against a broker who solicited clients after leaving the firm. The panel, which did not give an explanation for the decision, awarded $384,000 in damages to Joel Jacobs of Omaha, Neb., who left Wells Fargo Advisors in February 2015. The firm claimed Jacobs violated the so-called broker recruitment protocol when he sent an unauthorized letter to Wells Fargo Advisors customers in a bid to grow the list of clients he could potentially solicit. Jacobs – a former pro football player who had played for the New England Patriots and St. Louis Rams before becoming an advisor – accused the brokerage of causing him loss in income by unjustly stripping him of clients. He also said he was harassed by James Pekelder, a Wells Fargo Advisors manager and his former partner, who also allegedly “took unreasonable inflammatory actions against Jacobs”.

FA-IQ reached out to UBS, Dynasty, and Procyon for comments for this article. UBS and Dynasty declined to comment, while Fiore and others at Procyon were unavailable to comment as of this writing.

Related Content June 20, 2017 Big UBS Breakaway Joins Dynasty, Lawsuit Follows