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Guidelines for Representing Yourself

Communication with the Court: The judge, the judge’s staff, and the Clerk’s Office staff are not allowed to talk to you about your case without all of the other parties and their legal representatives present, whether in person or by telephone, except during an early neutral evaluation or a settlement conference. Early neutral evaluations and settlement conferences are confirmed by a written order from the judge scheduling a particular date and time for the conference. The judge, the judge’s staff, and the Clerk’s Office staff are never allowed to give you legal advice. 

Filing a Motion: If you want the judge to do something in your case, you must file a motion asking the judge to do it and explaining why you want it done. If you are not incarcerated, before you file any motion, you must either call or write to the lawyers for the other parties and ask them whether they agree or disagree with what you want to ask the judge to do. Then, at the beginning of your written motion, you must tell the judge in writing that you called or wrote the lawyers for the other parties and how they responded to what you want to do. Failure to do this will could result in your motion being denied. 

If you are incarcerated, you do not need to ask the lawyers for the other parties whether they agree or disagree with what you want to ask the judge to do before you file your motion. 

When another party or a lawyer files a motion that you disagree with, you have twenty-one (21) days after the date of service of the motion to file a written response to it. If you don’t file your response within twenty-one (21) days after the date of service, the judge will decide the motion without the benefit of your point of view. 

If you need additional time to complete something for which the judge has set a deadline, you must file a motion before the deadline expires asking for a specific amount of additional time and providing a good reason for why you need it. 

If you use abusive, offensive, obscene or inappropriate language in any document you file with the Court, the judge may strike your document and refuse to consider it. 

Current Address: Always keep the Court aware of your current mailing address. Local Rule 5.3 requires address updates within 60 days of any change of address. The address update must include a current address at which you can be served and receive mail. The notice should specify the effective date of the change (the date when you can send and receive mail from your new address). If you are released from incarceration or transferred to another facility, it is very important for you to provide the Court with your new address in writing. Do not rely on the prison or jail to do it for you or expect the Court to locate you. When you file a notice of a change of address with the Court, write your case number on it. It is always a good idea to notify the Court if you think you are going to be in transit for a period of time. As soon as you reach a more permanent location, you should contact the Clerk’s Office in writing to check on the status of your action and update the Clerk’s Office with your new address. If you fail to keep your address up to date, your case could be dismissed.  

Pursuant to Local Rule 5.3, if your email, post office box or physical mailing address changes while an action is pending, you must promptly file with the court and serve upon all other parties a written Notice of Change of Address specifying the new address for service.  If you are filing electronically, you must update your address information including your email address in PACER.  All subsequent pleadings, motions or other documents filed must reflect the new contact information.  If the court does not have your current address and phone number, you may miss important information and deadlines outlined in a court order.

Appearing in Person: You must appear in person (unless you are incarcerated and the judge presiding over your case tells you to appear by telephone) in the appropriate courtroom and courthouse for all conferences and hearings in your case. The judge presiding over your case will tell you where to go in the order that sets the conference or hearing. 

Keep Copies for Your Records: You should keep a copy of everything you file for your future use. If you cannot afford photocopies, you can make a handwritten copy for yourself. The Clerk’s Office does not provide free copies of documents. The Court will mail to you all court orders at no cost. If you need an additional copy of a court order, you may submit a written request to the Clerk’s Office. 

Sensitive Information: You should not include sensitive information in any document filed with the Court unless such inclusion is necessary and relevant to the case. Any personal information you include will be available over the internet on the Court’s electronic filing system. If sensitive information must be included, the following personal identifiers must be partially redacted (meaning, marked over or removed so it cannot be read) from the document whether it is filed on paper or electronically: 

  • Social Security numbers. If a person’s Social Security number must be included in a document, only the last four digits of the number should be used. 
  • Names of minor children. If the involvement of a minor child must be mentioned, only the initials of that child should be used. 
  • Dates of birth. If an individual’s date of birth must be included in a document, only the year should be used. 
  • Financial account numbers. If financial account numbers are relevant, only the last four digits of these numbers should be used. 

It is the responsibility of the parties to be sure that all pleadings and other papers comply with the rules requiring the removal or redaction of personal identifiers. If you include sensitive information about yourself in a filing, the Clerk’s Office will not redact it for you. 

Diligence: It is very important to be diligent in pursuing your case. All parties must make their best efforts to comply with the Court’s deadlines and orders. If you cannot comply with a deadline, it is your responsibility to file a motion for additional time. You should not assume that the Court will simply “know” you need more time. If you fail to prosecute your case diligently, it could be dismissed. Even though you don’t have a lawyer representing you in your case, you are required to participate in the ordinary events associated with being a party to a lawsuit, like discovery, court hearings, settlement conferences, early neutral evaluations, and trial. If you fail to do so, the judge may impose monetary or non-monetary sanctions on you, up to and including either dismissal of your case (if you are the plaintiff) or entry of judgment against you (if you are the defendant).