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How Do I File Pro Se?

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  • Written By: Emma G.
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 25 August 2014
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To file pro se means to represent yourself in a court of law rather than using the services of a lawyer. Before beginning court proceedings, you should learn the system by taking advantage of pro se manuals and self-help programs available in your state. Then you can file a complaint, serve your lawsuit, and research the case. Finally, you attend the hearing where you will be able to argue your case before a judge.

Pro se is a Latin term meaning for self. It is most commonly used in United States law. In Great Britain, the pro se litigant is known as a the litigant in person.

The best way to ensure that you can successfully file pro se is to learn the system ahead of time. Many states offer self-help programs to assist litigants who chose to file pro se. Most courts also offer a manual giving step-by-step instructions for filing in that particular court. This is a valuable resource because the process may vary slightly from court to court.

Next you can file your complaint. A complaint is a document that tells the court why you are filing the lawsuit, whom you are suing, and what you expect to gain if you win. The court will probably expect you to pay a filing fee when you submit this paperwork.

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Once you have notified the court of your intentions, it is time to notify the person you are suing. This is called serving the lawsuit. You do this by sending a copy of the complaint and an official summons. The summons is a document that explicitly states that the defendant is being sued and the date he or she must appear in court.

After all parties have been notified, the court will issue a scheduling order. This is the time line that the case will follow. It tells all parties when documents must be submitted, how long the discovery period will be, and when they must appear in court.

The discovery period is particularly important for litigants who file pro se. During this time you can research the case, question witnesses, and build a body of evidence. The law may require that the litigants share certain information with each other at this stage to promote fairness in the legal proceedings.

Finally, you will attend a formal hearing. At the hearing, both parties will appear before a judge and plead their case. As you chose to file pro se, you will have to present the case yourself. The defendant may have a lawyer, however. Present your case in a logical manner, referencing any evidence you have to support your claim. The defendant will then do the same. After hearing both sides, the judge will issue a verdict.

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