United States District Court - Northern District Court of California

Claudia Wilken, Chief Judge

Richard W. Wieking, Clerk of Court

Tips for Pro Se Filers

There is a lot to learn about representing yourself in federal court, but these are some especially important pointers:

  1. Read everything you get from the court and the opposing party right away, including the papers you get from the Clerk’s Office when you file. It is very important that you know what is going on in your case and when you have deadlines.
  2. Meet every deadline. If you do not know exactly how to do something, try to get help and do your best; it is more important that you turn things in on time than that you do everything perfectly. You can lose your case if you miss your deadlines. If you need more time to do something, ask the court in writing for more time as soon as you know that you will need it.
  3. Use your own words and be as clear as possible. You do not need to try to sound like a lawyer. In your papers, be specific about the facts that are important to this lawsuit.
  4. Always keep all of your paperwork. Keep copies of everything you send out. When you file a paper in the Clerk’s Office, bring at least the original and three copies so that you can keep a stamped copy for yourself. Know where your papers are so that you can use them when you need them to prove your case.
  5. Have someone else read your papers before you turn them in. Ask that person if they understand what you wrote; if they did not, and you need to explain yourself more clearly, rewrite your papers. The judge may not get to hear you explain yourself in person and may only have your papers in front of him or her when making decisions about your case.