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FAQs: Pro Se

  • Can Clerk’s Office personnel answer legal questions or provide legal advice?

    No, Clerk’s Office personnel may not give legal advice. Th e Clerk’s Office will not be able to advise you on such things as:

    • explaining the meaning of rules
    • answering questions as to whether this is the proper Court in which to file your complaint
    • commenting on your case -recommending how you should proceed
    • predicting a decision a judicial officer might make
    • answering questions as to how long you have to file a complaint in this Court
  • After filing my case, how do I go about getting facts and information from the defendant(s) so that I can prepare for trial?

    The process of getting facts and information is called discovery. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 controls discovery and you should refer to this rule for the methods you can use to obtain facts and information.

  • Can I add claims to my complaint after I have filed it?

    Refer to Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure regarding when you can file an amended complaint. You may not amend your complaint by filing separate or supplemental documents. All of the claims you wish to bring must be included in one single complaint form. When you file an amended complaint, it completely replaces the complaint(s) you filed previously, so it must include all of the claims you wish to bring.

  • Can I file a case on my own behalf without an attorney?

    Yes, filing a case on your own behalf without an attorney is referred to as filing “Pro Se.” You should be aware that if you represent yourself (proceed pro se), you will be required to follow the same Court rules as an attorney.

  • Can I file a case without paying the $400 filing fee?

    Maybe. To seek the Court’s permission to proceed in Court without paying the filing fee, you must file a fully-completed Application to Proceed in District Court Without Prepaying Fees or Costs (short form).  This form is available on the website and from the Clerk’s Office.

  • Can I file a criminal case against someone?

    You cannot file a criminal case against anyone. The United States Attorney’s Office is responsible for filing federal criminal cases. Allegations of criminal behavior should be brought to the attention of the local police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or other appropriate law enforcement agency.

  • Can I get a copy of this Court’s Local Rules?

    Copies of specific rules can be provided by the Clerk’s Office. A full copy of all the Court’s Local Rules can be obtained from this Court’s website,

  • Can I pay the $400filing fee in installments?

    No, you must pay the full $400 filing fee or file an Application to Proceed in District Court Without Prepaying Fees or Costs (short form).

  • Can someone tell me before I decide to pay the filing fee whether the Court will allow me to proceed IFP?

    No. Eligibility for IFP will be decided only when a Judge rules on your motion.

  • Can you provide me with the names of attorneys who could help me?

    No, the Clerk’s Office cannot provide you with the name of an attorney. You can, however, contact the Missouri Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service (phone number (573) 636-3635) to get the names of attorneys who may help you. In the St. Louis area, the Lawyer Referral Service can be reached by calling 314-621-6681.

  • Could there be additional costs involved in litigating my lawsuit besides paying the $350 filing fee?

    Yes, for example, you may have to pay someone to de liver your complaint. Also there may be costs for getting documents and information from witnesses and the defendant(s). Finally, the losing party may have to pay for some of the winning party’s expenses.

  • How do I file a case on my own behalf (Pro Se)?

    A case is started by filing a complaint. You should refer to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and this Court’s Local Rules for information about the proper form of your complaint. The Court requires a civil cover sheet (available from the Clerk’s Office) and a complaint that includes an original signature and your address. You must also either pay the $350 filing fee or request the Court to allow you to file the case without paying the filing fee. This is referred to as proceeding in forma pauperis (“IFP”).

  • How long will it take the Court to determine if I can proceed IFP?

    Usually, between thirty (30) and sixty (60) days

  • I tried to file a motion with the Court but it was returned to me because it did not contain a certificate of service . What is a certificate of service?

    Each document that you file with the Court must contain your signature and a certificate of service. A certificate of service indicates to the Court that you have delivered a copy of the document to the other parties. The certificate of service states the name and address of the attorney or party served with the document, the manner of service, and the date of service.

  • I was granted leave to file my complaint IFP and now I want to appeal, do I need to file another IFP motion for appea l?

    No, if the Court previously granted your motion to proceed IFP, you only have to file a notice of appeal.

  • If I file a case and request to proceed IFP, will th at stop the running of the statute of limitations or other deadli nes?

    Yes, if your complaint is accompanied by a completed IFP motion and affidavit.

  • Is there anyone who can assist me with my legal problems?

    Yes, you can contact the Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (phone number (314) 534-4200) or Gateway Legal Services (phone number (314) 534-0404).

  • My case has been assigned to a Magistrate Judge. What is a Magistrate Judge?

    Magistrate Judges are judicial officers appointed by the Court to assist in the work of the Court. They can also decide civil cases when both parties agree to have the case heard by a Magistrate Judge instead of a District Judge. If your case is assigned to a Magistrate Judge, you will receive a from that gives you the option to have your case heard by the Magistrate Judge. If you decide not to have your case heard by a Magist rate Judge, it will be reassigned to a District Court judge.

  • Once the defendant(s) receives a copy of the complaint, how long does he/she have to reply?

    The defendant(s) has twenty (20) days to respond if the plaint iff delivers the complaint with a notice that a lawsuit has been filed. This notice is called a summons. If the defendant(s) agrees that the complaint can be delivered without a summons, then he/she has sixty (60) days from the date of mailing to respond.

  • What can I do if the Court dismisses my case?

    If you are dissatisfied with the Court’s decision to dismi ss your case, you may appeal your case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. You must file your noti ce of appeal in the District Court Clerk’s Office. Generally, you have thirty (30) days from the date the judgment is ent ered to file your notice of appeal. The filing fee for a notice of appeal is $455 and is paid to the Clerk of the District Court.

  • What happens after I am assigned a case number?

    If you paid the filing fee, you will need to have a copy of the complaint delivered to each person you have named as a defendant. The way in which a copy of the complaint is delivered to the defendant(s) is called “service.” The Clerk’s Office ca n provide assistance on how to do this. If you did not pay the f iling fee, the Court will review your IFP motion and decide if yo u can proceed without paying the filing fee. The Court will also review your complaint to determine whether a copy of the complaint should be delivered to the defendant(s). If the Court decides that you do not have to pay the filing fee and determines that the complaint should be delivered to the defendant(s), the Clerk’s Office will have a copy of your complaint delivered to the defendant(s).

  • What if my IFP motion is denied?

    The Court will notify you in a written order that your motion has been denied and you will be given additional time to pay the filing fee.

  • What type of civil action can be filed in the District Court?

    Federal District Courts can only hear certain types of ca ses. Generally, only civil cases that involve diversity of citizenship (parties in the case live in different states a nd the amount in controversy is greater than $75,000), a federal question (lawsuits that have been authorized by Congress), or have the United States as a party can be filed in Federal Court.

  • Where can I find general information about the court’s policies and other law-related services?

    Visit the Self-Help Resource Center in the Clerk’s Office.

  • Where can I find legal materials such as case law and rules of civil procedure?

    You can find legal materials at local law and public libraries . Also, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit maintains a law library in this build ing on the twenty second floor. This library is open to the public. Please check w ith the library for its policies regarding public use. You can also find links to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Federal Rul es of Appellate Procedure, and Federal Rules of Evidence on this Court’s website.

  • Will the Court provide me with an attorney?

    The Court does not have to appoint you counsel and in most cases it does not. You can, however, ask the Court to appoint you counsel by filing a motion for appointment of couns el (form motions are available from the Clerk’s Office). If you file a motion for appointment of counsel, you must still proceed with your case and not wait for the Court to make its decision on your motion.