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Representing Yourself (Pro Se)

IMPORTANT: This website is intended as an informative and practical resource for pro se litigants. It is not a substitute for legal advice from an experienced attorney.

Getting Started
The court expects individuals representing themselves to review the following before filing with this court:
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
Local Rules of Procedure for the District of Montana
Guide for Filing in the United States District Court for the District of Montana for Self Represented Litigants
Self-Representation Forms

Method of Filing a Complaint:
A pro se litigant can choose to file documents in their case in 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 and supporting documents (ex. new complaints with a motion to proceed in forma pauperis) may be emailed to  ANY DOCUMENT SENT TO THIS E-MAIL OTHER THAN INITIAL PLEADINGS WILL NOT BE FILED.

Once a case has been opened, all documents must be submitted in person, through the mail, or via the court's electronic system.  THE COURT DOES NOT ACCEPT FILINGS VIA E-MAIL.

After your case has been opened, you will receive a Notice of Case Opening with the case number and judge assignment.

Filing via the Court's Electronic Filing System (CM/ECF)
Once the filing fee has been paid or the court has granted you permission to proceed IFP, you may register to file your documents electronically in CM/ECF and receive and view via email everything that is filed in your case by you, the judge, and 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 Procedure, Local Rules, and the Guide to Electronic Filing.

For additional information on filing via CM/ECF see:
District of Montana Pro Se Filing Instructions
Pro Se E-Filing Registration Form (submit via email)
Pro Se Election to Cancel E-Filing and Electronic Service (submit a separate form for each case in which you wish to cancel your request to e-file).
Pacer User Manual for CM/ECF Courts (filing procedure, step by step manuals, helpful filing tools, and frequently asked questions).

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.

Appointment of Counsel
You do not have a constitutional right to appointed counsel in a civil case, even if you are incarcerated. Therefore, if you start a civil case pro se, you should be prepared to pursue it to completion on your own. The Court appoints counsel only in limited circumstances that may not be met by your case.

Legal Advice
The Clerk of Court's Office is forbidden by law from giving you legal advice.

Removal of personal identifying information
Your documents will be available publicly on the internet. Therefore, you must not include sensitive information in any document including social security numbers, names of minor children, dates of birth, taxpayer identification numbers, and/or financial 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 he or she will read it or act on it.

Change of Address
You must inform the Clerk and all other parties promptly if you 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 of Court's Office. If you fail to keep your address up to date, your case may be dismissed.

Other Helpful Links:
Filing without an Attorney in Bankruptcy Court
Standing Order BMM-5: In re Appointment of Clerk of Court as Agent for Acceptance of Service for District of Montana Judges and Employees
Glossary of Legal Terms
About Federal Courts
Understanding the Federal Courts
Ninth Circuit Library