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Skip Navigation LinksResources for Persons Who File a Civil Case Without an Attorney
Someone who files a civil case on his or her own behalf is often referred to as a pro se or pro se litigant (pronounced pro say). "Pro se" is a Latin phrase meaning "for oneself." If you are a pro se litigant, the resources listed below are intended to be helpful to you.

The rules, procedures and law that affect your case are very often hard to understand. With that in mind, you should seriously consider trying to obtain professional legal assistance from an attorney instead of representing yourself as a pro se party.

The staff of the Clerk's Office can help you by answering questions about procedures, but they are prohibited from giving you legal advice. This means, for example, that the Clerk's staff cannot do any of the following:

  • recommend a legal course of action or suggest ways to help you win your case;
  • predict how a district or magistrate judge may decide any issue;
  • interpret the meaning of any judicial order; or
  • interpret the local rules of this Court, federal procedural rules, federal statues, or case law.

Although Court employees cannot give you legal advice, a free self-help assistance program is available to pro se litigants. For information on this program, click here.

For copy of Understanding The Federal Courts click here.

For a copy of a written guide to filing a civil case in federal court without an attorney, click here.

For a table that summarizes the basic instructions for filing a civil case, click here.

For a list of forms often used in federal civil cases, click here.

For a link to information maintained by Illinois Legal Aid Online that discusses filing a federal case without a lawyer, including a program that helps you fill out forms you may need, click here.

For more information on a settlement conference assistance program for pro se litigants, click here.

Pro se litigants may be granted an e-filing account provided that the pro se litigant

  • is NOT a restricted filer in this Court; and
  • has a civil case in this Court where they are listed as a party; and
  • successfully completes either the online or instructor-led e-filing training program offered by the Clerk’s Office; and
  • submits a paper copy of the Court’s e-filing application with the pro se litigant’s “wet” signature.