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Pro Se Litigants / Representing Yourself

The pro se information on the Court's website is specifically for individuals who are representing themselves in the District of Massachusetts without the assistance of an attorney. It is intended 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, the Local Rules of this Court and the individual practices of the judge assigned to your case. Moreover, the links to other websites are for informational purposes only, and neither the United States District Court Clerk's Office nor any employee of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts is responsible for the accuracy of the information contained in other websites.

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 called a "pro se litigant." A civil case, which is the only type of case you can start in federal court, 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 appointed counsel. Therefore, if you start a civil case pro se, you should be prepared to pursue it to completion on your own because the Court appoints counsel only under certain circumstances that may not be met by your case.

Instructions for Filing a Complaint

Frequently Used Forms

Legal Representation

Pro Bono Representation: IF YOU CANNOT AFFORD AN ATTORNEY, you may make a written motion asking the court to appoint an attorney for you. Use the same heading that you used on your COMPLAINT, but entitle the document "Motion for Appointment of Counsel." In your motion, provide the court with your financial status, your attempts, if any, to find a lawyer, and any other information which would be helpful to the court in determining whether a lawyer should be appointed for you. The Court is not required to appoint an attorney, but may request an attorney who has indicated a willingness to accept such cases on a pro bono basis to represent you. See Title 28 U.S.C. §1915.

Civil Subpoena

  • See Rule 45 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
  • A subpoena commanding attendance at a trial or hearing shall issue from the court for the district in which the hearing or trial is to be held.
  • A subpoena for attendance at a deposition shall issue from the court for the district designated by the notice of deposition as the district in which the deposition is to be taken or in which the production or inspection is to be made.
  • The clerk shall issue a subpoena, signed but otherwise in blank, to a party requesting it, who shall complete it before service. An attorney as officer of the court may also issue and sign a subpoena on behalf of:
    • A court in which the attorney is authorized to practice; or
    • A court for a district in which a deposition or production is compelled by the subpoena, if the deposition or production pertains to an action pending in a court in which the attorney is authorized to practice.
  • A witness subpoena may be served anywhere within the district of the court by which it is issued or at any place without the district that is within 100 miles of the place of the deposition, hearing, trial, production, or inspection specified in the subpoena. (F.R.Civ.P. 45(b)(2))

Massachusetts State Court Litigants
If you are an indigent litigant with a case before the Massachusetts State Probate Court system, or are planning to bring a case in the Massachusetts State Probate Court system and are seeking appointment of pro bono counsel, please contact the Probate and Family Court in your County of residence as listed below for assistance.

Eastern Division:   Suffolk County 617-788-8300   
  Essex County 978-744-1020  
  Middlesex County 617-768-5858  
  Norfolk County 781-830-1200  
  Plymouth County 508-897-5400 x2964
Central Division: Worcester County 508-831-2200  
Western Division: Hampden County 413-748-7745  
  Hampshire County 413-586-8500  
  Franklin County 413-774-7011  


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Related Resources
Notice To Pro Se Litigants
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