US District Court • Southern District of New York

Representing Yourself in Federal Court (Pro Se)

Pro Se

Role of the
Pro Se Intake Unit

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

Assistance Clinic

How Do I Start a New Lawsuit Without an Attorney?

A lawsuit is commenced by the filing of a complaint. The Southern District of New York requires a party to submit an original and two exact copies of the complaint.

Pro se litigants must submit an original and two copies of their complaint to the Pro Se Intake Unit, along with the filing fee or an application to proceed in forma pauperis. Prisoners must also include a Prisoner Authorization form.

The Pro Se Intake Unit has complaint forms that litigants may use to file an employment discrimination action, a social security disability appeal, a prisoner civil rights action, or an action for habeas corpus relief by a prisoner. For other types of actions, litigants must write their own complaint in English on 8-1/2" x 11" paper.

  1. a caption in the upper left-hand corner,
  2. The word "COMPLAINT" next to the caption,
  3. A statement of jurisdiction and venue
  4. A statement of facts
  5. The remedy requested
  6. The words "JURY DEMANDED" if the party wants the case decided by a jury at trial,
  7. The party’s signature, address, e-mail address and telephone number

See also Fed. R. Civ. P. 11 (Signing Pleadings, Motions, and Other Papers; Representations to the Court; Sanctions). As a pro se litigant, you may pay the filing fee and deliver the complaint to the Pro Se Office in person. In this situation, you must also submit a complete civil cover sheet and summons. For cases submitted to the Pro Se Intake Unit by mail (whether the fee is paid or a fee waiver is requested) or cases delivered to the Pro Se Intake Unit in person in which a fee waiver is requested, the Pro Se Intake Unit will complete both documents.

Once the case receives a docket number and is assigned to a judge of this Court, the Pro Se Intake Unit will instruct the litigant on how to proceed.

It is extremely important for all pro se litigants to inform the Pro Se Office (as well as the other parties in the lawsuit) of any change of address immediately so that legal mail regarding the case can be sent to the correct address. All change of address notifications must be submitted in writing.