US District Court • Southern District of New York

Representing Yourself in Federal Court (Pro Se)


Appearing
Pro Se

Role of the
Pro Se Intake Unit

Fees & Waiver of Fees

How to Start a New Lawsuit without an Attorney

How to Find an Attorney

If Named as a Defendant

Pro Se FAQ’s

Contact Pro Se


Appearing Pro Se

The information on this site provides information to individuals who are representing themselves in the Southern District of New York without the assistance of an attorney. This website is intended as an informative and practical resource for these litigants and is not a substitute for legal advice from an experienced attorney. The information is procedural in nature and should be read in conjunction with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Local Rules of this Court and the Individual Practices of the judge assigned to your case.

When you are without an attorney, you are proceeding "pro se." If you represent yourself in Court, you are called a "pro se litigant" or a "self-represented litigant." "Pro se" is a Latin term, meaning "on one's own behalf"and a "litigant" is someone who is either suing someone or is being sued in court.

The right to appear pro se in a civil case in federal court is contained in a statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1654. Thus, anyone can appear pro se, and anyone who appears before the Court without an attorney is considered pro se. There are, however, certain limitations to self-representation, such as:

  • corporations and partnerships must be represented by an attorney.
  • a pro se litigant may not represent a class in a class action.
  • a non-attorney parent may not appear pro se on behalf of a child, except to appeal the denial of the child's social security benefits.

Notice To Pro Se Litigants

New ECF Rules 9.1 and 9.2 Regarding Service of Documents by Filing on the Electronic Case Filing (ECF) System

After you mail or deliver a document to the Pro Se Intake Unit for filing, the Clerk's Office staff will scan and docket it onto the court's ECF system. The ECF system will then email all other parties who have lawyers, notifying them that you have filed a document. Those parties will then be able to get a copy of the document. This process for docketing on ECF is deemed to be service under Rule 5(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Therefore, if your documents are docketed on ECF, you will not have to mail them to any other parties who have lawyers, and you will not have to attach an affirmation of service to those documents.

So that your documents can be properly docketed on ECF, make sure that they are in the right format—they should have original signatures, a caption, and a title. The court provides form documents, including a form motion, for you to complete.