Your Responsibilities as a Self-Represented Litigant

What does Pro Se mean?

If you are representing yourself without the benefit of an attorney, you are known as a pro se litigant. Pro se is a Latin term meaning “for oneself.” As a pro se, or self-represented litigant, you are entitled to every right under the law. You will not be penalized because you are not represented by an attorney. At the same time, you will be expected to follow the rules that govern the practice of law in the federal courts. Pro se litigants should be familiar with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the local rules of the court.

As a pro se litigant, you may not authorize another person who is not an attorney to appear for you. You may receive help from non-attorney resources but you must personally sign your complaint and all additional papers filed with the Court.


Good practices as a self-represented litigant:

Pursue your case diligently.

It is important that you comply with the Court’s deadlines and orders. If you cannot comply with a deadline, it is your responsibility to file a motion for additional time. If you fail to prosecute your case diligently, it could be dismissed.

The Court must be able to contact you in writing or by email at all times.

The Court will communicate with you via mail and email. Make sure your address and email is always current. If you change physical or email address while your action is pending, it is very important that you provide the Court with your new address in writing.

Keep a copy of everything you file in your action.

You should keep a copy of everything you file for your future use. The Clerk’s office does not provide free copies of documents.

You should redact any sensitive information.

Be careful not to include any sensitive information in any document filed with the Court unless such inclusion is necessary and relevant to the case. Any personal information you include will be available over the internet. If sensitive information must be included, the following identifiers must be partially redacted from the document whether it is filed on paper or electronically:

  1. Social Security Numbers: If an individual’s social security number must be included in a document, only the last four digits of that number should be used.
  2. Names of Minor Children: If the involvement of a minor child must be mentioned, only the initials of that child should be used.
  3. Dates of Birth: If an individual’s date of birth must be included in a document, only the year should be used.
  4. Financial Account Numbers: If financial account numbers are relevant, only the last four digits of these numbers should be used.