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Representing Yourself

How To [ + ]

How To Videos

  • Complaint
  • Service (TBA)
  • JS-44 (TBA)
  • Application to Proceed Without Prepaying Fees and Costs (TBA)

Instruction Sheets: Filing a Case

Instruction Sheets: Service/Return of Service

Court Related Assistance [ + ]

U OF D MERCY LAW SCHOOL FEDERAL PRO SE LEGAL ASSISTANCE CLINIC

The U of D Mercy Law School Federal Pro Se Legal Assistance Clinic provides free legal assistance, not representation, to low-income pro se litigants (a person who does not have an attorney). Clinic services are not available for incarcerated individuals.


CLINIC HOURS

Monday, Wednesday and Friday - 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm
To make an appointment call 313-234-2690 or email: proseclinic@udmercy.edu

CLINIC SERVICES MAY INCLUDE:

  • Review of case before or after being filed for federal court jurisdiction
  • Explaining legal claims and amending the complaint, if necessary
  • Assistance completing forms
  • Legal advice regarding the law, court rules and procedures
  • Explanation of court orders, court pleadings, and discovery issues
  • Limited legal research and assistance with writing motions and responses
  • Assistance with preparing for conferences, hearings, settlement conferences, mediations and other court appearances

PRO SE CASE ADMINISTRATOR

The Pro Se Case Administrator ("PSCA") is in the Clerk's Office and provides free case filing and case related procedural assistance to pro se litigants (a person who does not have an attorney).

  1. The PSCA, is not a lawyer and is an employee of the U.S. District Court.
  2. The PSCA may only answer questions about forms and procedures.
  3. The PSCA cannot provide legal advice, legal assistance, complete forms or advocate on your behalf.

HOURS

Until further notice, the PSCA is available by telephone or email only.
Monday - Friday - 9:00 am to 5:00 pm


To make an appointment call 313-234-5137 or email: julie_owens@mied.uscourts.gov

PROCEDURAL ASSISTANCE MAY INCLUDE:

  • Identifying which forms to use and instructions to complete forms
  • Case related procedural explanations
  • Explaining the case filing process
  • Explaining Court procedures
  • Providing case status
  • Procedural assistance with preparing for conferences, hearings, settlement conferences, mediations and other court appearances
Other Legal Assistance [ + ]

The resources are provided for informational purposes and are not endorsed or supported by the Court

FREE LEGAL CLINICS - LOW INCOME
(The clinics listed only provide legal assistance and not legal representation)
Where: University of Detroit Mercy Law Federal Pro Se Legal Assistance Clinic
Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse
231 W. Lafayette Blvd., Room 1044 (10th Floor)
Detroit, MI 48226
When: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Contact: (313) 234-2690 or proseclinic@udmercy.edu
Where: Detroit Legal Services Clinic
Detroit Bar Association
645 Griswold
Detroit, MI, 48226
When: 4th Tuesday of the month, 12:00 - 3:00 pm
Contact: (313) 961-6120 or detroitlawyer.org/clinic
Where: The Legal Aid and Defender Association Outreach Clinic
Oakland County Legal Resources Center, Courthouse West Wing Extension Building 14 East - 2nd Floor
1200 North Telegraph Road
Pontiac, MI 48341
When: Every other Wednesday, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Contact: (248) 858-0012
Participation is on a first come, first served walk-in basis. Attendees may register any time before 3:00 p.m. on the clinic date.
Where: Capuchin Soup Kitchen Legal Clinic
1264 Meldrum St
Detroit, MI 48207
When: 3rd Thursday of the month - 9:00 am to 11:00 am
Individuals should arrive at 8:30 am, the day of the clinic.
Where: William Booth Legal Aid Clinic
3737 Lawton St
Detroit, MI 48208
When: By appointment only - Wednesdays, 1:00-4:30 pm
Contact: (313) 361-6340
Where: Christian Legal Aid Clinics
St. Vincent de Paul
46408 Woodward
Pontiac, MI 48342
When: Tuesday afternoons, 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Contact: (248) 478-4779
Where: MACC Legal
7900 Mack Avenue
Detroit, MI 48214
When: 1st and 3rd Saturdays
Contact: maccdevelopment.com/macclegal
Where: Lakeshore Legal Aid Counsel & Advocacy Law Line
When: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday: 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
Wednesday: 11:00 am-6:00 pm
Friday: 9:00 am-1:00 pm
Contact: 888-783-8190 or lakeshorelegalaid.org
Must call for intake interview first
Where: Legal Aid and Defender Association
Contact: Wayne County: 877-964-4700 or (313) 967-5800
Oakland County: (248) 253-1548
Macomb County: (586) 465-1344
or ladadetroit.org/legal-services-and-programs
Where: Legal Services of Eastern Michigan
When: Tuesday and Thursday, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm Wednesday, 9:00 am - 6:00 pm Friday, 9:00 am-1:00 pm
Contact: 888-783-8190 or lsem-mi.org
Must call for intake interview first. Serves Arenac, Bay, Clare, Genesee, Gladwin, Gratiot, Huron, Isabella,Lapeer, Midland, Saginaw, Sanilac, St. Clair, and Tuscola counties.
Where: Legal Services of South Central Michigan
When: Monday - Friday, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm for intake interview
Contact: Washtenaw County Office Phone: (734) 665-6181 or 1-888-665-6181
Monroe & Lenawee Counties Phone: (734) 241-8310 or 1-888-251-1598
lsscm.org
Must call for intake interview first. Have available all documents relating to your legal problem. Serves Barry, Branch, Calhoun, Clinton, Eaton, Hillsdale, Ingham, Jackson,Lenawee, Livingston, Monroe, Shiawassee, and Washtenaw Counties.
LEGAL ASSISTANCE HOTLINE
Where: COUNSEL AND ADVOCACY LAW LINE (CALL)
Contact: (888) 783-7024
CALL provides legal advice over the phone and free of charge on a wide range of issues.
STATE BAR OF MICHIGAN
Where: LAWYER REFERRAL PROGRAM
When: Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 4:45 pm
Contact: (800) 968-0738
Cost: $25.00 administrative fee
Clients pre-pay a $25.00 administrative fee for a referral to a lawyer for up to a 25-minute free consultation. The administrative fee will be waived for tenants with urgent housing problems, Social Security claimants, workers' compensation claimants, and personal injury plaintiffs.
Where: MODEST MEANS PROGRAM
When: Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.
Contact: (800) 968-0738
Cost: $25.00 administrative fee
Modest means clients pre-pay a $25.00 administrative fee for a referral to a lawyer for up to a 25-minute free consultation. If you qualify for the program, the modest means attorney will charge a reduced fee for any legal work provided after the initial consultation. The reduced fee rate is $75 per hour. Unless using one of the fixed-fee services, the attorney will bill by the hour. Exceptions may apply. Eligibility for the program is based on the legal matter, income, assets and availability of lawyers.
COUNTY LAWYER REFERRAL SERVICES
Where: MACOMB COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION LAWYER REFERRAL SERVICE
Contact: 586-468-2940 or macombbar.org
The Macomb County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service program offers legal referrals to lawyers. The service does not provide referrals to pro bono attorneys or free legal services. The referral and up to a thirty-minute consultation are free.
Where: OAKLAND COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION LAWYER REFERRAL SERVICE
Contact: 248-338-2100 or ocba.org
The OCBA's Lawyer Referral Service provides callers with referrals to lawyers. The service does not provide referrals to pro bono attorneys or free legal services. The referral and up to a thirty-minute consultation are free.
Where: WASHTENAW COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION LAWYER REFERRAL SERVICE
Contact: (734) 996-3229 or washbar.org
Cost: $30.00
Callers pre-pay a $30.00 administrative fee for a referral to a lawyer for up to a 30-minute consultation. The consultation does not cover document review or drafting of documents. It takes two to five business days for an initial consultation with the attorney. The Lawyer Referral Service is not an emergency service.
Where: GENESSEE COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION LAWYER REFERRAL SERVICE
When: Monday - Friday, 9 am to 5 pm, (Closed from 12:00 pm -1:00 pm)
Contact: (810) 232-6000 or gcbalaw.org
Cost: $30.00
Callers pre-pay a $30.00 administrative fee for a referral to a lawyer for up to a 30-minute consultation. The $30.00 administrative fee is waived for personal injury and social security matters.
MICHIGAN LEGAL HELP - WEBSITE
Where: michiganlegalhelp.org
The Michigan Legal Help website is for people who are handling their legal problems without a lawyer. The website provides information about how to handle simple civil legal matters, such as housing, family matters or other civil rights. There are also forms and Do-It Yourself guides available at no cost. The site does not give legal advice and it is NOT a substitute for having a lawyer.
MICHIGAN LEGAL HELP SELF-HELP CENTERS

The Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Centers have staff available to help visitors find what they need on the website, answer questions about court practices and processes, and answer simple questions about forms available on the website. Navigators cannot give legal advice. There is also access to computers and the internet.

Where: WAYNE COUNTY: Family Alliance for Change
5716 Michigan Ave
Suite 4100
Detroit, MI 48210
When: Mondays and Wednesdays 9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Contact: (313) 297-2975
Visitors can access computers and printers during these hours. Help is available in both English and Spanish. All services are free.
Where: WAYNE COUNTY: Friend of the Court
11th floor (Room 1145)
Penobscot Building 645 Griswold St
Detroit, MI 48226
When: Monday - Thursday, 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.
Visitors must sign in no later than 2:30 pm This office closes promptly at 3:00 pm.
Where: WAYNE COUNTY: Coleman A. Young Municipal Center
19th floor (Room 1901) 2 Woodward Ave
Detroit, MI 48226
When: Fridays, 9:00 am - 3:00 pm.
Visitors to this center must sign in no later than 2:30 pm. The office closes promptly at 3:00 pm.
Where: OAKLAND COUNTY: Oakland County Legal Resources Center
Building 14 East - 2nd Floor Oakland County Courthouse
1200 N. Telegraph
Pontiac, MI 48340
When: Monday - Friday, 8:30 am - 5:00 pm
Where: OAKLAND COUNTY: Oakland County Clerk's Office
Building 12 East
1200 N. Telegraph Pontiac, MI 48340
When: When: Monday - Friday, 8:00 am until 4:30 pm
Where: MACOMB COUNTY: Old County Building 13th Floor
10 N. Main St
Mt. Clemens, MI
When: Monday - Friday, 8:00 am - 4:30 pm
Residents from any nearby county may use the computers and highspeed internet connection to access the tools and resources on MichiganLegalHelp.org.
Where: MONROE COUNTY: Monroe County Opportunity Program
1140 S. Telegraph Road
Monroe, MI 48161
When: Monday - Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
Contact: (734) 241-2775, ext. 208
Visitors should come before 4:00 pm to have enough time to search the website.
Where: LIVINGSTON COUNTY: Howell Carnegie District Library
314 W. Grand River Avenue
Howell, MI 48843
When: Mon - Thu: 10:00 am-8:00 pm
Fri - Sat: 10:00 am-5:00 pm
Sun: 12:00 pm-4:00 pm (The library is closed on Sundays in June, July, and August.)
Contact: (517) 546-0720
Where: SAGINAW COUNTY: Hoyt Library
505 Janes Avenue
Saginaw, MI 48607
When: Mon - Thu: 9:00 am-8:00 pm
Fri - Sat: 9:00 am-5:00 pm
Contact: (989) 755-0904
Forms [ + ]
Helpful Information [ + ]

U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan Rules

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

Legal Research resources

Researching the law can be difficult even for those trained in the law. The following resources may help with preparing your case.

Federal Law

Michigan Court Rules

Other Helpful Links

Public Libraries with Legal Documents

Detroit Public Library
5201 Woodward Avenue
Detroit, MI 48202
(313) 481-1300
University of Detroit Mercy Kresge Law Library
651 East Jefferson Avenue
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 596-0244
Wayne State University Arthur Neef Law Library
474 Gilmour Mall
Detroit, MI 48202
(313) 577-3925

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What type of cases are filed in Federal Court? (click to expand/collapse answer)

  • Federal courts have limited jurisdiction. The types of cases filed in federal court are:
    • cases that deal with a question involving the United States Constitution;
    • cases where the United States is a party;
    • cases brought under federal law, including statutes; and
    • cases where the parties live or do business in different states and the alleged damages are more than $75,000.00 (also called diversity jurisdiction).
  • If your case does not fall under any of these categories, the federal court may not be the correct court to file your lawsuit.

Can I file a criminal case against someone? (click to expand/collapse answer)

An individual cannot file a criminal case against anyone. The United States Attorney's Office is responsible for filing federal criminal cases. Allegations of criminal behavior should be reported to the local police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or other law enforcement agency

LEGAL ASSISTANCE

I can't find an attorney. Will the Court appoint an attorney to represent me? (click to expand/collapse answer)

See a list of organizations that offer legal assistance and legal referral services higher up on this page.

Is there anyone who can give me legal help with my case? (click to expand/collapse answer)

Where are the rules? How do I conduct legal research? (click to expand/collapse answer)

  • You can find links to the Local Rules, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and other legal research resources by clicking here.

Can the Clerk's Office Staff help me with my case? (click to expand/collapse answer)

The Clerk's Office staff can provide general information about court rules and how the process works. They cannot:

  • Give legal advice;
  • Explain how court rules apply a case;
  • Recommend a how to proceed in your case;
  • Predict when a judge will rule on a matter;
  • Predict a judge's decision on a specific matter; or
  • Explain the meaning of a court order or judgment.

Can I speak with the judge directly? (click to expand/collapse answer)

You will not be able to speak directly or have any private communication, which is considered "ex-parte communication", with the judge.

To properly communicate with the judge, all communications should be submitted in writing, through the Clerk's Office.

In order for the judge to take action in your case, you must file a motion explaining what you want and why. If you are not incarcerated, before you file your motion, pursuant to EDM LR 7.1 (a), Seeking Concurrence in Motions and Requests, you must either call or write to the attorneys for the other parties and ask whether they agree or disagree with what you want to asking of the judge. Your motion must state that you contacted the attorneys for the other parties and what their response was to your request.

How do I get a hearing in my case? (click to expand/collapse answer)

The judge or magistrate judge assigned to your case in accordance with LR 7.1(f) will set a hearing on all other motions, unless an order submission and determination without hearing.

Hearings will not be held on motions for rehearing or reconsideration, unless the judge orders a hearing.

How long will it take for the judge to decide my motion/case? (click to expand/collapse answer)

There is no set time limit for the judge to issue a decision on a motion or to resolve your case.

MAGISTRATE JUDGE

My case has been referred to a Magistrate Judge. What is a Magistrate Judge? (click to expand/collapse answer)

Magistrate Judges are judicial officers appointed by the Court to assist in the work of the Court. They can decide matters in your case and their decisions are subject to review by the District Judge. The parties can also agree "consent" to have the Magistrate Judge preside over the case instead of the District Judge.

FILING A CIVIL LAWSUIT OR NOTICE OF REMOVAL

How do I file a civil lawsuit? (click to expand/collapse answer)

Click here to see a video on how to file a complaint

As required by Rule 3 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to begin a civil lawsuit, a complaint must be filed.

To file a civil lawsuit you must do the following:

  1. Complete the Complaint form.
    • If filing an Employment Discrimination Complaint include a copy of the Right to Sue letter
    • If filing a Social Security Complaint include a copy of the Denial of Benefits letter.
  2. Complete the JS-44, Civil Coversheet
  3. Provide the Court with an original of each form.
  4. Pay the filing fee of $402.00 (check, money order or credit card) or ask to have the fee waived by completing the Application for Proceed in District Court Without Prepaying Fees or Costs form

How do I file a Notice of Removal? (click to expand/collapse answer)

A defendant may remove a civil action from a State court to federal district court by filing a Notice of Removal. See 28 U.S.C. §1446, Procedure for Removal of Civil Actions, for guidance.

To file a Notice of Removal you must do the following:

  1. Submit the Notice of Removal with the state court record, including the complaint.
  2. Complete and submit the JS-44, Civil Coversheet.
  3. Submit the Notice of Removal, state court record, and JS-44 to the Court for filing.
  4. Pay the filing fee of $402.00 (check, money order or credit card) or ask to have the fee waived by completing the Application for Proceed in District Court Without Prepaying Fees or Costs form.

Can I amend my complaint after it has been filed? (click to expand/collapse answer)

Your complaint may be amended after it has been filed. The complaint cannot be amended by filing separate or supplemental documents. All parties and claims must be included in the amended complaint. The amended complaint completely replaces the original complaint

Refer to Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for more information about amending your complaint.

FILING FEES

What are the filing fees and how do I pay them? (click to expand/collapse answer)

The fee to file a civil lawsuit or Notice of Removal is $402.00. The fee can be paid by personal check, cashier's check, money order made payable to "Clerk, U.S. District Court." The fee can also be paid by debit or credit card. Cash is not accepted.

What if I can't afford to pay the filing fee? (click to expand/collapse answer)

If you cannot afford to pay the $402.00 filing fee, you may file an Application to Proceed in District Court Without Prepaying Fees or Costs.

A judge will review your application and decide if you can or cannot afford to pay the filing fee. If the judge decides you cannot afford to pay, the filing fee will be waived.

If the judge decides you can afford to pay the filing fee, you will have a certain amount of time to pay the fee. Partial payments are not accepted.

SERVICE

How long do I have to serve the defendant? (click to expand/collapse answer)

The complaint must be served on the defendant 90 days from the date the complaint was filed. Refer to Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for more information about serving the summons and complaint.

How do I serve the defendant? (click to expand/collapse answer)

The summons and complaint can be served on the defendant(s) using one of the methods below. For more information about service, see the Service Handbook.

Personal Service
A person who is not a party to the case and is over the age of 18, can personally deliver or serve the summons and complaint on the defendant(s). The person who served the complaint must complete the second page of the summons form.

By Mail
The defendant(s) can be served with the summons and complaint using certified mail with restricted delivery and return receipt.

Waiver of Service
You may ask the defendant(s) to waive formal service by sending a Notice of Lawsuit and Request to Waive Service of a Summons and a Waiver of the Service of Summons. If the defendant waives service, they will return the signed Waiver of the Service of Summons form to plaintiff.

Service by U.S. Marshal
If your request to waive the filing fee is granted and your complaint is not dismissed, the Court will direct the U.S. Marshal to serve the defendant(s) with the summons and complaint.

What happens after the defendant is served? (click to expand/collapse answer)

It is the plaintiff's responsibility to notify the Court that the defendant(s) have been served with the complaint by filing a proof of service with the Clerk's Office.

If the summons and complaint were served by:

Certified Mail:
A green certified return receipt card (PS Form 3811) will be returned for each defendant that received the summons and complaint. Complete the Proof of Service form and attach the return receipt card or a copy, and file it with the Clerk's Office.

Personal Service:
The person who served the defendant must complete the Return of Service section on the second page of the summons. The Return of Service must be filed with the Clerk's Office.

I have served the defendant with my complaint. How long do they have to respond? (click to expand/collapse answer)

After the summons and complaint have been served the defendant has 21 days to respond to the complaint. If suing the United States, a United States Agency, officer or employee, they have 60 days to respond to the complaint.

Please refer to the Service Handbook for more information about service.

FILING DOCUMENTS

How do I file documents? (click to expand/collapse answer)

The courthouse is closed to the public and the Clerk's Office is not open to accept in person filings. Documents for filing can only be submitted by mail or electronically through the Temporary Pro Se Document Upload Program.

To Send Documents By Mail:

U.S. District Court
Attn: Clerk's Office
231 W. Lafayette, 5th Fl
Detroit, MI 48226

To Submit Documents Electronically:

Temporary Pro Se Document Upload Program
**Documents must be in a PDF format in order to be uploaded.**

How will I know if something has been filed in my case? (click to expand/collapse answer)

  • If you are not an electronic filer, you will receive notification of filings in your case by U.S. Postal Service regular first class mail.
  • If you are an electronic filer, a Notice of Electronic Filing is emailed when something has been filed in your case.

Can I view and file documents in my case electronically? (click to expand/collapse answer)

If you would like to electronically view, file and receive documents filed in your case, you can register to become an electronic filer. In order to become an electronic filer you must:

  1. Be able to convert documents to a PDF format, have access to the internet, a scanner, and complete online training, if required.
  2. Apply for a PACER account and register to e-file in the Eastern District of Michigan at https://pacer.uscourts.gov/

Case Cycle (TBA)

Electronic Filing [ + ]