Self-Representation (Pro Se)
To file a civil case, you must give the Clerk of Court two items together at the same time:
(1) A Complaint, and
You can mail them or deliver them in person. You must submit all documents on paper as the Clerk will not accept electronic media for filing.
You may want to use the Civil Complaint form. It includes instructions that will help you explain your lawsuit to the presiding judge and to the opposing party or parties. If your Complaint is not clear, you might later be ordered to re-submit your Complaint using the form.
If you feel you cannot afford to pay the full filing fee, you can move to proceed "in forma pauperis." A form Motion is available for your use. It includes instructions that will help you give the presiding judge the information he or she needs to decide whether you can afford the fee and other costs that may be involved in the litigation.
Any document you want a judge to read must be filed with the Clerk of Court. Anything mailed directly to a judge might be discarded without ever reaching the judge.
No one who works for the Court is permitted to give you legal advice.
The federal court's case files are maintained in electronic form. The paper documents you send to the Clerk for filing will be scanned and converted to digital images. The image will be identical to the paper document and cannot be altered. After your document is scanned, it can be viewed on a screen, downloaded, saved on a hard or portable drive, emailed, and printed.
After your paper documents have been scanned, they will be discarded. However, if you want the documents returned to you, please include a self-addressed envelope with sufficient postage for their return. The electronic version of your document is the Court's official record of that document.
To ensure that your documents can be read in electronic form:
✓ Use white, unlined paper.
✓ Write on only one side of the paper. Do not submit double-sided pages.
✓ Type or neatly write by hand.
✓ Use blue or black ink.
✓ Use 1" margins at the top, bottom, and left and right sides of the page.
✓ Double-space or leave a bit of space between lines of handwriting.
✓ Do not use highlighters. Once the document is scanned, the part that appeared in highlights on paper may be blacked out and unreadable in the electronic version.
✓ Do not staple or otherwise bind the pages of a document together. You may paper-clip or clamp pages together if you are submitting more than one document at a time.
Courts are public institutions and court records are generally available to the public. After your documents are scanned and filed, they will be available via the internet to the general public. This does not mean the Clerk will post your documents on the Court's public website. But anyone who searches for documents filed in federal court in Montana might locate, view, download, print, and keep the documents you file.
When you file a document, do not give your birth date or your social security number, taxpayer identification number, or financial account numbers. You must not give anyone else's birth date, social security number, taxpayer identification number, or financial account numbers.
If anyone mentioned in your lawsuit is or was a minor at the time of the events you describe, you must not use the minor's full name. Use only their initials. If you were a minor at the time, you must use your full name.
The Clerk's Office will almost never ask you over the telephone or by email for your birth date, your social security number, your taxpayer identification number, or any financial account or credit card numbers. If you are asked for this information, always contact the Clerk's Office at the official phone numbers to make sure the request is genuine.
The United States District Court for the District of Montana has five filing locations: Billings, Butte, Great Falls, Helena, and Missoula. Each county in Montana is in one of these five "Divisions." The Clerk maintains an office in the federal courthouse in each Division.
Everything you send to the Court should be addressed to the Clerk of Court in the correct Division. Click HERE for a listing of the counties served by each divsion.
Within a week to ten days from the date you mail or deliver the required materials to the Clerk, you should receive a "Notice of Case Opening." The Notice will contain your case number and other information you may find useful. Please include your case number on all documents you send to the Clerk.
Again, no one who works for the Court is permitted to give you legal advice.
Please note: For administrative reasons, you might receive Court mail from any Division. You should continue to send your mail to the Clerk in the Division where your case is filed.
- District of Montana Civil Complaint
- District of Montana 2254 Habeas Petition
- District of Montana 2255 Motion to Vacate
- District of Montana Non-Prisoner Forma Pauperis Application
- Pro Se Request to File by Email Per L.R. 83.8
- District of Montana Prisoner Forma Pauperis Application
All forms listed above are Adobe Acrobate (PDF) forms unless otherwise noted. Click HERE to download Adobe Acrobate Reader.
For information on filing bankruptcy, please visit: