This site provides valuable information to those persons who do not have an attorney to represent them. When you are without an attorney, you are "proceeding pro se." If you represent yourself in Court, you are called a "pro se litigant" or a "self-represented litigant." "Pro se" is a Latin, legal term meaning "for himself," and a "litigant" is someone who is either suing someone or is being sued in court.
A civil case generally refers to all cases other than criminal cases. A civil case is the only type of case you can start without an attorney. It is different from a criminal case which can only be started by government officials. In a civil case, you do not have a constitutional right to a lawyer appointed by the Court. Therefore, if you start a civil case as a "pro se litigant," you should be prepared to pursue it to completion on your own. The Court appoints a lawyer to assist you in civil cases only under rare circumstances which may not be met in your situation.
In addition to reading the information on this website, you may also visit one of the Pro Se Clinics located in downtown Los Angeles at the United States Courthouse, 312 N. Spring Street, or in Riverside at the George E. Brown Building, 3420 Twelfth Street, or in Santa Ana at the Ronald Reagan Federal Building and United States Courthouse, 411 W. 4th Street. The legal staff working in the Clinics offer on site information about Court services, including forms, rules, and court filing procedures.
The Pro Se Clinic located in Los Angeles is administered by a nonprofit law firm, Public Counsel (not the Court) and may also offer legal representation (and/or placement with volunteer non-paid attorneys) to qualifying individuals in selected cases. Please note that cases will be placed with a volunteer attorney only in limited circumstances, and there is no guarantee of legal representation.
The Joint Pro Se Clinic of the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court located in Riverside is staffed by lawyers and offers free, on-site information and guidance to individuals who are representing themselves without an attorney in civil actions.