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Pro Se FAQs

QUESTION 1: What does it mean to appear Pro Se?

ANSWER: "Pro se" is a Latin term for self or "in one's own behalf." Litigants or parties representing themselves in court without the assistance of an attorney are known as pro se litigants. Although the majority of individuals, also known as "litigants" or "parties", appearing before the court are represented by attorneys, a small percentage appear pro se.

QUESTION 2: Will I be assigned a lawyer for my civil action?

ANSWER: In a civil case, you do not have a constitutional right to appointed counsel. Therefore, if you file a civil case pro se, you should be prepared to pursue it to completion on your own because the Court appoints counsel only under certain limited circumstances that may not be met by your case.

QUESTION 3: Does it cost money to commence an action in Federal Court?

ANSWER: Parties beginning a civil action in a federal district court are required to pay a filing fee set by statute. Most civil complaints must be submitted with the filing fee set forth in 28 U.S.C. §1914(a), which is currently three hundred and fifty dollars ($350.00) plus an additional Administrative fee of $55 for a total fee to file a civil case of $405. For additional information see Court Fees & Rates

QUESTION 4: What if I cannot afford the filing fee to commence a civil action?

ANSWER: A plaintiff who is unable to pay the fee may file a request to proceed in forma pauperis. If the request is granted, the filing fee is waived. In addition to waiving the obligation to pay the filing fee, being granted permission to proceed in forma pauperis entitles a person to: (1) submit a motion for appointment of counsel; and (2) have his or her complaint served on the defendant(s) by the U.S. Marshals Service. Pro se litigants proceeding in forma pauperis are not exempt from other fees and costs in their actions, including but not limited to copying and witness fees.

QUESTION 5: How and where do I file my papers?

ANSWER: You may file documents with the Clerk of the Court in person, or by mail. Court locations may be found at Maps, Locations & Hours

QUESTION 6: Can the clerk's office staff assist me with my lawsuit?

ANSWER:Although the Court Clerk's office is here to assist you with your filings, it is important to note that, by law, Clerk's office staff are prohibited from giving legal advice. Specifically, Section 955 of Title 28 of the United States Code bars the Clerk and his or her deputies and assistants from practicing law in any Court of the United States. Clerk's office staff are allowed to (1) give you basic case information contained within the public case file (for example, public documents filed and the dates they were filed, public scheduling notices, etc.); (2) show you the various Local Rules, General Orders or other publicly available statements of Court operations without giving you an interpretation of their meaning or effect; (3) provide you with Court-approved forms and guidance materials (for example, Pro Se Manual, Local Rules, General Orders, etc.); and (4) provide you with information regarding general deadlines and due dates without specific reference to your case. More detailed information regarding what type of assistance Clerk's office staff may or may not provide can be found in the Pro Se Notice.

QUESTION 7: Does the Court provide any written information that might assist me in preparing to file a civil lawsuit pro se?

ANSWER: A Pro Se Handbook is available for litigants. Among other things, the Pro Se Handbook provides information that you should consider before filing your own lawsuit. If, after considering this information, you decide to file a case in federal court, the Pro Se Handbook contains additional information to assist you in filing and proceeding with your case. For example, the Pro Se Handbook summarizes certain relevant rules of procedure for the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York and provides certain basic information to be used as a guideline for conducting your own legal research. The Pro Se Handbook is available from the Clerk's office in person, or by mail, and may also be found online at Resources Available from the Court.

QUESTION 8: Does the Clerk's office have any forms available for use in preparing my civil action?

ANSWER: Numerous forms are available for your use. The forms are available from the Clerk's office in person, or by mail, and may also be found online at Resources Available from the Court.