Representing Yourself in Federal Court (Pro Se)
Role of the Pro Se Intake Unit
The Pro Se Intake Unit acts as a central resource for the Southern District of New York on all pro se matters.
The Pro Se Intake Unit has two primary functions:
Papers Submitted by Pro Se Litigants
By standing order of the Court, all papers from pro se litigants must be submitted directly to the Pro Se Intake Unit. All papers submitted after the assignment of a judge and case number (also called a docket number) must contain the title or caption of the action and the docket number followed by the judge's initials. The papers will be checked for compliance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and, if in order, will be scanned and docketed on the ECF system. The Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF) sent in conjunction with such ECF filings constitutes service upon all other Filing Users (one who has permission to file electronically) and Receiving Users (one who has registered to receive notice from the court by electronic mail). Attorneys and other pro se parties who are not Filing or Receiving Users must be served with a paper copy of any document filed with the Court.
For further information regarding service please see the Court's ECF Rules & Instructions, Section 9: Service of Documents by Electronic Means.
Procedural Assistance to Pro Se Litigants
Staff in the Pro Se Intake Unit may assist pro se litigants by explaining Court procedures and filing requirements. However, they are not permitted to give advice on legal strategy, to represent litigants in court, or to participate in any discussion with pro se litigants regarding the merits of a particular case. (28 U.S.C. § 955 states that "The clerk of each court and his deputies and assistants shall not practice law in any court of the United States.") Additionally, staff may not calculate deadlines, draft papers, fill out forms, serve papers, act as interpreters, or notarize documents.
The Pro Se Intake Unit also has a number of forms, instructions, and manuals that it provides to the public upon request.
Questions regarding this Court’s procedures should be directed to the Pro Se Intake Unit either by telephone, by mail, or in person during normal business hours. Questions regarding the Court procedures submitted to the Court’s webmaster will not be answered.