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Representing Yourself

The information on this site is intended to serve as an informative and practical resource for pro se litigants and is not a substitute for legal advice from an experienced attorney. The information is procedural in nature and should be read in conjunction with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Rules of this Court.

If you wish to start a civil action in federal court, but do not have an attorney to represent you, you may bring your case on your own. This is called "proceeding pro se", which means that you are representing yourself in the Court, and you are commonly referred to as a "pro se litigant." Pro se is a Latin term meaning "on one's own behalf."

The right to appear pro se in a civil case in federal court is contained in a statute; 28 U.S.C. § 1654. Thus, anyone can appear pro se, and anyone who appears before the Court without an attorney is generally considered a pro se litigant.  There are, however, certain limitations to self-representation, such as:

  • Corporations and partnerships must be represented by an attorney.
  • A pro se litigant may not represent a class in a class action.
  • A non-attorney parent may not appear pro se on behalf of a child, except to appeal the denial of the child's social security benefits.

If you have any questions, visit the Clerk’s Office during normal business hours or contact us at (401) 752-7200. Please note, we will be happy to provide you with general instructions concerning court rules and procedures; however, we are prohibited from interpreting those rules and procedures or the law, evaluating facts, calculating time deadlines, or otherwise providing legal advice.