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Representing Yourself in Court

For information on E-Filing as a Self-Represented Party, click here.

Appearing pro se in District Court can be a daunting and complex task. Although some accommodations are made to ensure equal access to justice, pro se litigants are expected to comply with the Court's rules of procedure and decorum, and the arguments raised by pro se parties are held to the same standard as practicing attorneys. Parties without legal representation are strongly encouraged to file a motion with the court for appointment of pro bono (from the Latin, "for the public good") counsel. You may also be able to seek help from legal aid organizations or law school legal clinics. If you are thinking about representing yourself in the U.S. District Court, be sure to read the Court's Local Rules and the Guide for Self-Represented Parties. You will also need to familiarize yourself with the .

If you are committed to representing yourself in District Court, the following information will help ensure that your case proceeds smoothly and equitably.

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("FRCP") are the rules that all parties are expected to use during the life of the case and in preparation for and during a trial in Federal Court. Cornell University maintains an archive of legal information that includes an online copy of the FRCP. Each District in the federal system also maintains Local Rules that augment or refine the FRCP. Generally speaking, you need to follow the rule that permits, requires, or otherwise authorizes you to file a motion or other document with the court. The rules also cover the types of information you may request from the other party, scheduling orders and pre-trial court appearances and hearings, and many other aspects of trial practice. In addition, the District has its own Local Rules that are particular to this Court and its procedures. It's important to check both when you are researching how to file a complaint or motion with the court.

The Federal Rules of Evidence ("FRE") are the rules that describe the allowability and proper use of witness testimony, documents, and other evidence in a civil trial. Cornell University also maintains an online copy of the FRE. As you build your case, you will need to verify that you will be permitted to present the evidence on which you are relying to the court. Not everything that was said during the course of a dispute that gives rise to a civil action is admissable in court. Documents that cannot be authenticated may not be admissable. It is therefore important to closely review the FRE and ensure that your evidence will be permitted by the court. Click here for the rules governing Section 2254 and 2255 proceedings.

The District of Oregon CM/ECF system handles electronic filing of court pleadings.

In addition, the Oregon State Bar has a guide to pro se representation. Although geared to the Oregon state courts, it is nonetheless useful to review. There are many suggestions and case management tips that are equally applicable in the U.S. District Court.

LawHelp.org has a list of resources and information for the state of Oregon, including links to legal aid organizations and other pro bono and pro se resources: Law Help's Oregon page.

Finally, the National Center for State Courts and a variety of nonprofit legal organizations have joined together to create Self-Represented Litigation Network, a resource center for self-help legal resources, pro se information, and more.

Forms for Self-Represented Parties

Additional forms for self-represented parties are available at www.uscourts.gov.

Petition and Complaint Forms - Prisoner Civil Rights and Habeas

Petition and Complaint Forms - Other

Filing and Service

For information on registering for CM/ECF, see the page on how to e-File in Your Case as a Self-Represented Party.

Case Initiation and Management


Applying for Pro Bono Representation

For more information on applying for Pro Bono Representation see the page on Applying for Pro Bono Representation.



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