Representing Yourself in Federal Court (Pro Se)
Role of the Pro Se Office
The Pro Se Office acts as a central resource for the Southern District of New York on all pro se matters.
The Pro Se Office 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 Office. The Pro Se Office will check the papers for compliance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (signature, service, etc.), and if in order, will file the papers with the Court. All papers submitted to the Court after the assignment of a judge and case number (called a docket number) must contain the title or caption of the action, the docket number and a completed Affirmation of Service. (A completed Affirmation of Service serves as proof that a copy of the document was sent to the other parties or their attorneys.)
Procedural Assistance to Pro Se Litigants
Staff in the Pro Se Office 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 Office 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 Office 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.