Pro Se Litigants Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean to appear pro se? "Pro se" is a Latin term for self or "in one's own behalf." Litigants or parties representing themselves in court without the assistance of an attorney are known as pro se litigants. Although the majority of individuals, also known as "litigants" or "parties", appearing before the court, are represented by attorneys, a small percentage appears pro se.
Can a clerk tell me if my case should be filed in federal court? The decision of whether a case should or should not have been filed in federal court is one that will be made by a judge.
Can I view my case electronically? You must obtain a PACER login/password to view your case electronically. You may view your case using one of the public terminals located in each division, except the Marshall division.
What are my options for filing my complaint if I cannot make it to the courthouse during normal business hours? You can mail your complaint to the clerk or take advantage of the outside drop box located in Tyler, Texarkana and Sherman divisions. Each drop box is equipped with a date/time stamp for stamping your papers.
Can I file my documents by fax? The clerk does not accept fax filings unless prior approval is received from the judge.
What is a Magistrate Judge? A judicial officer of a district court who conducts many pretrial civil and criminal matters on behalf of district judges and decides civil cases with the consent of the parties.

Why can't the deputy clerks give legal advice? Legal advice should be given only by lawyers to their clients. Court employees are prohibited by law from giving legal advice.
How do I file a civil suit in federal court? You must submit a complaint to the clerk's office along with the appropriate filing fee, civil cover sheet and summons. To assist in filing your suit, the above forms can be found on our website.
Can I file my complaint or other documents electronically? Pro se litigants are not permitted to file electronically without the judge's approval.
Is there a page limit when filing documents in federal court? Absent permission obtained from the presiding judge, all documents filed by pro se persons are limited to 20 pages including attachments.
How do I serve my summons and complaint? A Plaintiff seeking service of civil process upon a pleading filed in this district will be responsible for designating a person over the age of 18 years who is not a party in the case to make service. You must provide each defendant with a copy of the summons and complaint.

Service of civil process shall not be executed by the United States Marshal except for government initiated process, extraordinary writ or when ordered to do so by a judge.

The person serving the summons and complaint must fill out the reverse side of the summons and return it to you. You must then deliver the summons, along with any attachments such as a certified mail receipt, to the clerk's office as proof the defendant was served.
What is a Report and Recommendation? The Magistrate Judge will review the case and issue a report and recommendation to the District Judge advising him/her as to what should happen with the case. The parties then have the opportunity to object in writing to the report and recommendation. After all objections are considered, the district judge will issue a final decision on the case.