Representing Yourself in Court

You have the right to represent yourself (called appearing "pro se") in your legal case. It is your decision whether to represent yourself or to retain an attorney. Please keep in mind that there are extensive state and local court rules that everyone appearing before the court are expected to follow. An attorney can protect your rights and fully represent you at potential hearings and advise you on the options related to your case. If you cannot afford an attorney, you may be eligible for representation by a public defender

If you choose to represent yourself, you can find state and local court rules on our website and the state Administrative Office of the Courts website. Many of the required forms are also available online. Make sure you carefully read all form instructions. When you file documents with the court, it is your responsibility to know what you want to file and why. Court staff are not attorneys and are restricted by law from giving legal advice. Court staff cannot tell you if your paperwork is filled out correctly.

Additional Tips:

  • You can handwrite or type documents filed with the court, however, the documents must be complete, legible, and comply with court rules.
  • Keep your composure even if you become stressed about court processes.
  • You will communicate about your case with the court and the judge or magistrate through the documents that you file. Direct contact with the judge or magistrate outside of a formal hearing or trial is not allowed.
  • Know your case number. You will be asked for it every time that you contact the court.
  • Give everyone who is involved in the case copies of every document that you file with the court. You must also submit to the court a completed form that tells when and how you served each party or attorney.
  • Keep a "date-stamped" copy of everything that you file with the court to show when you filed the original.
  • Study the rules of the court to learn how to request or schedule hearings.
  • Be organized. Consider what you want and why you should get it. Make notes that will help you tell the court your answers to these questions quickly and clearly. Practice your presentation with friends and family.
  • Be prepared. Visit the courthouse and take a look at the courtroom ahead of time. You may also want to observe a hearing or trial for a similar type of case.
  • Organize and have adequate copies of documents and evidence. Be sure your witnesses are ready to appear at the right place, at the right time. Be prepared with your questions for the witnesses.
  • Arrive early, allowing time for traffic and unexpected events.