Representing Yourself

NOTICE: Effective May 1, 2020, and until further notice, self-represented (“pro se”) parties whose names appear on existing cases before this court may register to become ECF users and may file documents electronically without first obtaining a judge’s permission.  New complaints and other case-opening documents must still be filed by submitting a paper version to an Intake counter, by mailing the documents (by US Postal Service or a private carrier such as UPS or FedEx), or by sending the documents by courier.  In addition, the court has suspended the “chambers copy” requirement until further notice. See General Order 78.

If you have an existing pro se e-filing account, and you wish to e-file in another case in which your name is listed, send an email to to link your account to that case.

This page is designed to provide information to people who are representing themselves in civil cases in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

This page provides information and useful documents, but is not a substitute for legal advice from an experienced attorney. If you can afford to hire a lawyer to represent you or can find low-cost or free professional legal help, you are strongly encouraged to do so. If you do not have a lawyer and want to proceed with a case in federal court, you can represent yourself; you will be a “pro se litigant.”

In a civil case (the only type of case an individual can start in federal court), you do not have a constitutional right to free legal representation. If you start a civil case without a lawyer, you should be prepared to pursue it to completion on your own. In rare cases, the court sometimes appoints attorneys to assist in civil cases. More information about this is provided on these pages.

Please read an important privacy notice for pro se litigants.