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Non-Incarcerated People: Resources & Information

This section is for people who are not incarcerated (not detained or otherwise held in custody in a jail, prison, or other detention facility) and who are filing civil cases without a lawyer.

If you are incarcerated, see the section on incarcerated-specific resources and information. This page provides an overview of the case filing process, filing considerations to keep in mind and a list of helpful links. 

The District of Montana has developed a resource to help pro se people navigate the process of filing and pursuing a civil case without a lawyer. The Pro Se Guide provides a comprehensive review of the process from filing through trial and appeal. View and download the guide here:

Guide for Unrepresented Parties - Instructions for Filing a Civil Action on Your Own Behalf


Overview of the Case Filing Process 

Starting a New Case
Filing the Case:
A pro se litigant can choose to file the opening documents, called “initial pleadings,” in their case in any of three ways: 
  1. In Person: Documents may be delivered in person to the Clerk of Court's office in Billings, Butte, Great Falls, or Missoula. The Helena office does not accept filings over the counter. 
  2. By Mail: Documents may be mailed to the Clerk of Court’s office in the Billings, Butte, Great Falls, Helena, or Missoula. 
  3. Email: Initial pleadings (case filings and supporting documents) may be emailed to This includes new complaints and motions to proceed in forma pauperis). NOTE - ANY DOCUMENT SENT TO THIS EMAIL OTHER THAN INITIAL PLEADINGS WILL NOT BE FILED
Case Filing Fee:
There is a filing fee of to begin a new civil case, see our Fee Schedule for the most current fees. You have two options: (1) paying the filing fee in full, or (2) asking the Court to waive the filing fee by proceeding “in forma pauperis” or “IFP.” IFP is for lower-income people who would not be able to afford the filing fee. This option requires you to file a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. 
After the Case Has Been Opened  
Filing and Accessing Documents in the Case:
Once your case has been opened, you will receive a Notice of Case Opening with the case number and the name of the judge assigned to your case. From this point onward, all documents must be submitted in person, through the mail, or via the Court's electronic system. THE COURT DOES NOT ACCEPT FILINGS VIA EMAIL. 
Option 1: Filing via the Court’s Electronic Filing System (CM/ECF) 
You may register to file your documents electronically in CM/ECF. This will allow you to receive and view via email everything that is filed in your case by you, the judge, or any other parties in your case. By registering for electronic filing, you waive your right to receive service of documents by first class mail. The Clerk of Court reserves the right to revoke or suspend the electronic filing privilege of any electronic filer who fails to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil ProcedureLocal Rules, and the Guide to Electronic Filing.  
  • Form to register for e-filing: Pro Se E-Filing Registration Form (PDF).  This form allows you to register to file documents electronically and to receive notice by email of documents that are filed in your case. You must submit this form via email. 
  • Form to cancel your e-filing request: Pro Se Election to Cancel E-Filing and Electronic Service.  This form allows you to cancel your request to file documents electronically and/or to receive email notice of documents filed in your case. You must submit a separate form for each case in which you wish to cancel your request to e-file. You may submit this form via email or mail. 
More information on filing via CM/ECF: 
District of Montana Pro Se Filing Instructions (PDF) - Step-by-step instructions for filing through the Court’s electronic filing system, CM/ECF. 
Pacer User Manual for CM/ECF Courts - This manual provides information about the filing procedure, step-by-step instructions, helpful filing tools, and frequently asked questions. 
Option 2: Consent to Electronic Service Only 
If you want to file your documents in person or via the mail, you may still consent to receive the documents filed in your case via email. To do so, complete and return the Consent to Electronic Service form to the Clerk of United States District Court, District of Montana. By consenting to electronic service, you waive your right to receive service of documents by first class mail. 
Filing Considerations to Keep in Mind 
Removal of Personal Identifying Information:
Your documents will be available publicly on the internet. Therefore, you must not include sensitive information in any document. This sensitive information includes:  
  • Social Security Numbers.
  • Names of minor children (under age 18).
  • Dates of birth, Taxpayer Identification Numbers.
  • Financial account numbers (includes bank account numbers).
Direct Contact with Judge Prohibited:
You cannot communicate directly with any judge in your case. If you want the Court to take any action or consider something in your case, you must file a motion.  Do not send a letter directly to the judge and expect that they will read it or act on it. 
Change of Address:
You must inform the Clerk and all other parties promptly if you move or change your address. If you are registered to file electronically on CM/ECF, you are required to update your address in PACER. If you are not filing electronically, you must mail or deliver in person a Notice of Change of Address to the Clerk’s Office. If you fail to keep your address up to date, your case may be dismissed. You can locate contact information for the Clerk's Office for the court in which you have filed on the Contact Us page. More information about updating the Court with your current address is on the Guidelines for Representing Yourself page.
Other Helpful Links