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Representing Yourself in Federal Court

            Appearing in court when you are not represented by a lawyer is called appearing “pro se.” This is a Latin phrase that means “for yourself.” This website provides resources for people who appear pro se in the Middle District of Tennessee. It is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney, and you should seek professional legal representation if possible. The statements made on this website are not legal advice and should not be cited as legal authority. You are responsible for complying with all of the applicable rules and procedures in your case. 
            You may appear pro se as a plaintiff (meaning that you filed a lawsuit and are seeking relief from the court) or as a defendant (meaning that a lawsuit has been filed against you). Only individuals may represent themselves pro se. Corporations or partnerships must be represented by a lawyer. A non-attorney parent may not appear pro se on behalf of a child, except to appeal the denial of a child’s social security benefits. 
            Before you file a lawsuit, you should familiarize yourself with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. These rules apply to every civil lawsuit filed in the federal courts. You should also familiarize yourself with the Local Rules of the Middle District of Tennessee. These rules apply to every case filed in this court. You must follow both sets of rules if your case is filed in this court. 
            By law, the employees of the Clerk’s Office of the Middle District of Tennessee cannot give you any legal advice. 28 U.S.C. § 955. They are not allowed to discuss your case with you, tell you whether or how specific rules apply to your case, explain what any particular order or rule of the court means, or even tell you when a filing is due. Clerk’s Office employees may provide you with specific court resources or forms that may be useful to you and may give you basic information that is included in your public case file, including copies of documents filed with the court. You can find information about copy requests HERE.
            Computer terminals are available for use by pro se litigants in Suite 1300 in the Clerk’s Office, located on the first floor of the U.S. Courthouse, 719 Church Street, Nashville, Tennessee. The Clerk’s Office is open from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding federal holidays.
            If you need help finding a lawyer, you may want to contact the Nashville Bar Association Lawyer Referral and Information Service at (615) 242-6546 or the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services helpline at (844) 435-7486 (844-HELP4TN). The Court does not endorse the services of any attorney or legal services organization.