FAQs For Pro Se Filers

Appeals

How many days do I have to file an appeal?
In a civil case, the notice of appeal must be filed with the U.S. District Clerk’s Office within 30 days after the judgment is entered. When the United States or its officer or agency is a party, the notice of appeal may be filed by any party within 60 days after the judgment is entered. See Fed. R. App. P. 4(a).

What is the filing fee for a notice of appeal?
The filing fee for a notice of appeal can be found on our Fee Schedule page.

Where do I pay the appeal fee?
Upon filing a notice of appeal, you can either pay the appeal fee in person or mail it to the U.S. District Clerk’s Office. Checks are to be made payable to “Clerk, U.S. District Court.” The U.S. District Clerk’s Office receives the appellate fee for the Court of Appeals.

How long will it take for a decision on my appeal?
There is no set length of time for an appeal. As the case is being decided by the Court of Appeals, the U.S. District Clerk’s Office can make no prediction as to the length of time it will take. However, factors that may affect the length of time it takes the appeal may include the Court of Appeals caseload, complexity of the issues, etc.

What do you send to the Court of Appeals, what makes up the record?
The original papers and exhibits on file or in the custody of the Clerk of Court (except for oversized exhibits or sensitive exhibits such as drugs, firearms, currency, etc.), the transcript of proceedings, if any, and a certified copy of the docket entries prepared by the deputy clerk of the District Court shall constitute the record on appeal in all cases. See Fed. R. App. P. 10(a).

What type of cases need a certificate of appealability?
A certificate of appealability is needed to appeal the denial of a habeas corpus petition by a person in state custody under 28 U.S.C. §2254 or a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence by a person in federal custody under 28 U.S.C. §2255. See Fed. R. App. P. 22(b).

When is the record ready to be sent to the Court of Appeals?
It is the responsibility of the deputy clerk of the District Court to complete the record on appeal and to transmit it to the Court of Appeals. Generally in civil and criminal cases when all transcripts that have been ordered are filed and the filing fee has been paid or an application for in forma pauperis is granted the record will be transmitted. Section 2254 and 2255 cases should also include the District Court’s order ruling on the motion for certificate of appealability. Once the volumes are bound and labeled, and the transcript volumes, depositions, and exhibit containers are labeled, the record is ready for transmission to the Court of Appeals. The original record must be transmitted to the Court of Appeals within 15 days after it is complete for purposes of appeal.

When the record is at the Court of Appeals, should all subsequent filings be filed with the Court of Appeals?
Once the record is at the Court of Appeals, all further filings relating to the appeal should be sent to the Court of Appeals. However, transcript order forms should be filed in the District Court. If a pleading is filed in the District Court (and any subsequent ruling should one be necessary), it will be forwarded to the Court of Appeals as a supplement to the record.

Civil

Can I file a pleading by fax?
No. We do not accept fax filings.

What are the requirements for the filing of a civil lawsuit?
A civil action is commenced by filing the following:

1. Complaint
Requirements: File the original plus one copy of your complaint, and one copy for each defendant to be served. Exception: If service is to be made on an agent or agency of the U.S. government or the United States of America is named, one copy each is required for the Attorney General, the United States Attorney’s Office and the named agency.
NOTE: All copies must be signed, dated and identical to the original, and all parties must be named in the style of the case on the complaint, or any other pleading initiating a suit; “et al.” is not acceptable.
2. Civil Cover Sheet
Requirements: File the original plus one copy.
3. Summons
Requirements: File the original plus one for each party to be served. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 4.
4. Service
Requirements: The plaintiff is responsible for service of the summons and complaint on the defendant. Service may be effected by anyone at least 18 years of age who is not a party to the suit. The U.S. Marshal will serve summonses only if ordered by the Court or for In Forma Pauperis cases. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 4.
5. Filing Fee
Requirements: There is a filing fee for most types of civil lawsuits. See Fee Schedule page and 28 U.S.C. §1914. The fee must be paid at the time your complaint is filed. If you are paying by check or money order, it should be made payable to “Clerk, United States District Court.” The court does not accept credit cards. There are no fees for jury demands, counterclaims, etc. If you are unable to pay the filing fee, you may file a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. If the court grants this request, it means that you will not have to pay the filing fee at the time your complaint is filed. The form necessary to file a “motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis” is available in the U.S. District Clerk’s Office. When completing the forms, it is very important that you answer all questions relating to your income, assets, and liabilities. If you fail to provide complete and accurate information, your request may be denied or you may be required to provide additional information. If your request is denied, you will be allowed a reasonable opportunity to pay the fee.
6. Notice of Removal
Requirements: File the original plus one copy of the civil cover sheet, a supplemental civil cover removal sheet and a Notice of Removal. All of the forms are available at the U.S. District Clerk’s Office, if available.

Can the U.S. District Clerk’s Office give me legal advice? Can they help me in preparing my complaint?
No. By law the Clerk of Court and his deputies and assistants shall not practice law in any court of the United States or provide legal advice. See 28 U.S.C. §955.

Will the Court appoint me an attorney?
If you cannot afford an attorney, you may file a written motion asking the court to appoint an attorney for you. This written motion is called a “Motion for Appointment of Counsel.” (See Pro Se Manual for form). This motion will provide the court information about your financial status, your attempts to find a lawyer, and any other information you would like the court to consider in determining whether a lawyer should be appointed for you.

Where can I find an attorney to help me with my case?
You can contact your Local Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service or Legal Aid offices.

Austin
Travis County Bar Association
700 Lavaca, Suite 602
Austin, Texas 78701
(512) 472-0279
Legal Aid of Central Texas
2201 Post Road, Suite 104
Austin, Texas 78704
(800) 369-9270
El Paso
El Paso Bar Association
500 E. San Antonio, Room L-115
El Paso, Texas 79901
(915) 532-7052
El Paso Legal Assistance Society
1301 N. Oregon
El Paso, Texas 79901
(800) 373-9028
San Antonio
San Antonio Bar Association
Bexar County Courthouse, 5th Floor
San Antonio, Texas 78205
(210) 227-8822
Bexar County Legal Aid Association Inc.
434 South Main Avenue, Suite 300
San Antonio, Texas 78204
(210) 227-0111
Waco
Heart of Texas Legal Services Corp.
900 Austin Avenue, 7th Floor
P.O. Box 527
Waco, Texas 76703
(800) 299-5596
If there is no Lawyer Referral Service in your area, call toll-free 1-800-983-9227 in Texas to reach the statewide Lawyer Referral Services, or 1-800-204-2222, extension 2155, for Legal Aid Services.
You can also contact the State Bar of Texas at 1414 Colorado, Austin, Texas 78701, (512) 473-2295 or visit their homepage at http://www.texasbar.com.

How are the summons and complaint served?
The U.S. District Clerk’s Office will sign, seal and issue the summons to the plaintiff. The plaintiff is responsible for service of the summons and complaint on the defendant. Service may be effected by anyone at least 18 years of age who is not a party to the suit. The summons and complaint must be served within 120 days after the filing of the complaint with the Court. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 4.

What are the different costs associated with a lawsuit?
Please refer to the Fee Schedule.

Is there a fee for a jury demand, for a summons, or for filing a motion?
No.

How many days do I have to file an answer in a civil case?
The defendant has 21 days from the date of service of the complaint, not counting the date it is received, to answer. The United States or a federal official will have 60 days to answer.

How many copies of each pleading do I file?
An original plus one copy is required for most documents. The U.S. District Clerk’s Office will retain the original for the case file and send a copy to the judge. If you want a file-stamped copy for your records, submit along with a written request (i.e., an original plus two copies).

Can I file a pleading by fax?
No. We do not accept fax filings.

Does my motion require a brief in support?
No. According to the Local Court Rule CV-7(c), the specific legal authorities supporting any motion shall be cited in the motion and the motion shall be limited to ten (10) pages in length, unless otherwise authorized by the Court.

Can I amend my complaint without a motion?
No. You must file an original and one copy of the motion for leave to amend complaint with a copy of the proposed amended complaint with the U.S. District Clerk’s Office in any case where the defendant has filed an answer. If no answer has been filed then you can file your amended complaint without obtaining leave of court.

How long does a judge take to rule on a motion?
Motions are ruled on as soon as possible based on the court schedule and case load.

What is a “certificate of conference”?
Local Court Rule CV-7(h) requires that a non-dispositive motion must include a statement or “certificate” that counsel for the moving party contacted counsel for the opposing party (typically by telephone) to confer in good-faith to resolve the matter by agreement before seeking the Court’s ruling. (A non-dispositive motion is a motion other than a motion for judgment on the pleadings, a motion to dismiss, for summary judgment, for new trial, or for judgment as a matter of law.) Such a “certificate of conference,” that should appear in the body of the motion, might typically state for instance: “On the ____ day of __________ 20___, the undersigned counsel conferred with opposing counsel concerning the relief sought in this Motion, and was advised that opposing counsel opposed (or did not oppose) this Motion.” If the motion is opposed, the certificate should state the grounds for opposing counsel’s objection. If the motion is unopposed, the motion should state so in the title of the motion.

What is a “certificate of service”?
After a defendant has answered a complaint, any motions or other pleadings filed with the Court by either party must include a “certificate of service.” A certificate of service is a statement of the date and manner in which you served a copy of your pleading, motion, or other documents on all other parties or their counsel of record. It is your responsibility to serve the opposing attorney or pro se party with a copy of any pleading, motion, or other documents that you submit to the Court for filing. The U.S. District Clerk’s Office does not send copies of your submissions to other parties. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 5. A sample certificate of service follows:

CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
I hereby certify that on this ______ day of ___________, 20___, a true and correct copy of the foregoing pleading was forwarded by (first class mail, hand-delivery, or certified mail) to _____________, the attorney for ___________ (defendant) at the address of _______________________.
____________________________
Your Signature and date

What is a “prayer for relief”?
A prayer for relief is a short, concise statement appearing at the end of the complaint which states the relief the plaintiff believes he/she is entitled to. For example, the plaintiff may ask for an award of monetary damages, an injunction to make the defendant stop a certain activity, or both.

Is a proposed order required?
Pursuant to Local Court Rule CV-7(c), a proposed order should be filed with all motions specifically referenced in Rule CV-7(c). These motions are as follows:
(1) for extension of time;
(2) to continue a pretrial conference hearing or motion, or the trial of an action;
(3) for a more definite statement;
(4) to join additional parties;
(5) to amend pleadings;
(6) to file supplemental pleadings;
(7) to appoint next friend or guardian ad litem;
(8) to intervene;
(9) for substitution of parties;
(10) relating to discovery, including, but not limited to motions for the production and inspection of documents, specific objections to interrogatories, motion to compel answers or further answers to interrogatories, and motions for physical or mental examination;
(11) to stay proceedings to enforce judgment;
(12) joint motions to dismiss;
(13) to withdraw as counsel;
(14) for mediation or other form of alternative dispute resolution; and
(15) for approval of an agreed protective order.

In addition to those specified in the local rules, some divisions have standing orders requiring that all motions be accompanied by a proposed order. The litigants should consult standing orders in each division for further information.

Do I need to file a copy of pretrial discovery with the Court?
No. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5(d) provides that discovery requests and responses, depositions, interrogatories, requests for documents, requests for admission, and disclosures under Rule 26(a) may not be filed until either (1) they are used in the proceeding or (2) on order of the Court.

Civil Local Court Rules
General

Who are the judges presiding in the district?
We have a list of judges serving in our District.

Can I view the court/judges calendars on-line?
The Judge’s calendars are located on-line on the Judges’ Calendars page

Can I view court documents on-line?
Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) offers the public the ability to query court dockets and other information through a dial-up or internet connection from a personal computer or terminal.

Please visit the PACER Service Center web site for more detailed information and to register.

You may also use the “Public Access Terminal” available in each division office. The same information available to you on PACER is also available with the terminal. There is no charge for using the Public Access Terminal and they are available for use during office hours.

Can I apply for a passport in the U.S. District Clerk’s Office?
No. Passport applications can be obtained at your local United States Post Office?

What are the copy fees?
The fee for copies through the U.S. District Clerk’s Office can be found on the Fee Schedule page. If a case file has been sent to the Federal Records Center, there is a retrieval fee for the first box and and a fee for each additional box. The copying fees are also added as well. Please reference the Fee Schedule page. You may order the file from the U.S. District Clerk’s Office either in person or by mail. The retrieval fee must be payable in advance to the U.S. District Clerk’s Office. Please provide the complete case number and any other information you may have to ensure proper file retrieval. You will be notified when the file is available in the U.S. District Clerk’s Office for viewing or of the appropriate copying fees for the documents requested.

To whom do we make checks payable?
Checks are to be made payable to “Clerk, U.S. District Court.”

Can I download frequently used forms?
List of available forms can be found on our Forms Page.

NOTE: To download a form, put your mouse on the hyperlink for the form you want and click with your RIGHT mouse button. On most browsers a menu will appear. Choose save and give the file a name on your local PC. (If this does not work with your browser, check your browser’s manual for instructions on saving).
PDF format keeps the documents in their original form and font. Any computer with a PDF viewer can pull up a document and it will look (and print) the same as the original.
You will need an Adobe Acrobat Reader to view or print the PDF version of a form. A free Acrobat reader and instructions are available from Adobe.

May I get one page of a multi-page document certified?
No. The District Court may only certify an entire document.

Can I file a pleading by fax?
No. We do not accept fax filings.

Where can I get information concerning traffic tickets and violations on federal property such as military bases or national parks?
Our Central Violations Bureau page may have the information you are looking for.

What are the divisional offices and counties withing the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas?
The Western District of Texas consists of 7 divisional offices. Details on each divisional office and the counties served can be found by clicking the listings below:

Austin
Del Rio
El Paso
Midland-Odessa
Pecos
San Antonio
Waco

CM/ECF

What does CM/ECF offer?
CM/ECF will allow attorneys to file and view documents from their office, home or anywhere they have access to the Internet, 24 hours a day. Some documents are automatically docketed as part of the filing process and are immediately available electronically. CM/ECF also provides the following benefits:

1. 24-hour access to filed documents over the Internet.
2. Automatic email notice of case activity.
3. The ability to download and print documents directly from the court system.
4. Concurrent access to case files by multiple parties.
5. Secure storage of documents.
6. Potential reduction in courier fees.
7. Documents filed in text PDF (i.e. documents that are created electronically, rather than scanned) can be text-searched and text-copied. In other words you can highlight and copy text from someone else’s motion or order and paste it into the document that you are preparing, saving you the time of retyping the information.

What do I need to use CM/ECF?
1. A personal computer running a standard platform such as Windows or Macintosh (only the Firefox browser is supported on the Macintosh).
2. Word processing software.
3. Internet access and a browser. The system has been certified with Firefox and Internet Explorer.
4. Software to convert documents into PDF. There are a number of PDF utilities available that will accomplish the task of creating a PDF document. However, we recommend you avoid freeware PDF creation utilities.
5. Scanning equipment may be useful.
6. An email address, preferably not a commercial based email account like Yahoo, Google, or MSN. These commercial accounts are prone to spam and typically have in-box limitations, and will stop accepting email when the in-box is full.
7. We recommend the use of a high speed Internet connection via DSL or cable modem. Dial-up access is not acceptable for use with CM/ECF.

How does it work?
The electronic case files system accepts documents in a portable document format (PDF). PDF retains the way a document looks, so the pages, fonts and other formatting are preserved. Filing a document with the court’s CM/ECF system is quite easy:

1. Select the type of document to file.
2. Enter the case number in which the document is to be filed.
3. Designate the party(s) filing the document.
4. Specify the PDF file name and location of the document to be filed.
5. Add attachments, if any, to the document to be filed.
6. Modify the docket text as necessary.
7. Submit the pleading to CM/ECF.
8. Receive notification of electronic filing (NEF).
9. Save or Print the NEF. This NEF provides confirmation the ECF has registered your transaction and the pleading is now an official court document. It also displays the date and time of your transaction and the number that was assigned to your document.

Are there fees?
There are no added fees for filing documents over the Internet using CM/ECF; existing document filing fees do apply. Filing user will be prompted to pay by credit card when filing documents that require a filing fee. Electronic access to court data is available through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) program. Attorneys and litigants receive one free copy of documents filed electronically in their cases; additional copies are available for viewing or downloading. See our Fee Schedule page for cost per page. Directed by Congress to fund electronic access through user fees, the judiciary has set the fee at the lowest possible level sufficient to recoup program costs.

How will I sign documents?
The court will issue a login and password to all registered users. Using your login and password to file a document is considered to be your signature. You have two options to sign a document:

1. Sign the document in ink. This will require that you scan the document into PDF format before electronic filing.
2. Sign the document using /s/. Example: /s/John A. Doe, Esq. (typed onto the document where the signature normally appears).

How secure is CM/ECF?
CM/ECF has many security features and has passed an evaluation by the National Security Agency. Access to the system is through a court issued login and password.

When can I register?
All attorneys admitted to practice in the Western District of Texas or attorneys allowed to appear pro hac vice are required to register. You may get your registration form from our website using this link CM/ECF E-Filing and E-Noticing Registration Form, or you may pick up a copy at your nearest Western District of Texas, U.S. District Clerk’s Office. (This is a large file, so it may take several minutes to download depending on your internet connection.)

Is electronic filing mandatory?
Electronic filing of both civil and criminal documents is mandatory unless the litigant can show cause to the court why e-filing will present a hardship. Non-prisoner pro se litigants will have the option to e-file, but this is not mandatory.

Can I e-file case opening documents?
Complaints and Notice of Removal cases can be filed electronically. Please be prepared to submit on-line payment, as these documents require a filing fee.

What if I have a lengthy document, or documents stored in boxes?
Documents that exceed 200 pages or 10Mb must be traditionally filed.

Are certificates of service required for documents I e-file?
Yes, a certificate of service must be included with all filed documents reflecting that service on known Filing Users will be accomplished through the NEF and indicating the manner of service on any party who is not a Filing User. When you electronically file a document with the court, the court will send a notice of electronic filing (NEF) to all CM/ECF registered parties on the case.

How do I know who is registered with CM/ECF?
There are three mechanisms to see who on your case is registered with CM/ECF and will receive notice by the court:
1. Docket Sheet: By viewing the docket sheet in PACER. Registered parties will have an email address listed.
2. CM/ECF Utility: After you login to CM/ECF, the utility “mailings” is available to display who is and who is not registered in your case.
3. NEF: The notice of electronic filing (NEF) will display who will and who will not receive notice from the court.

What can I e-file?
1. Complaints
2. Notice of Removal
3. Answers
4. Amended complaints that do not add parties
5. Consents and non-consents to proceed before a U.S. Magistrate Judge
6. Motions
7. Responses and Replies
8. Notices
9. Returns of Service
10. Trial-Related Documents
11. ADR Documents
12. Other Miscellaneous Documents
13. Appeal Briefs
14. Plea Related Documents
15. Sealed documents in cases that are not sealed
16. Ex parte documents in cases that are not sealed
17. Plea Agreement
18. Sealed Plea Agreement
19. Notices of appeal
20. Waivers

What can’t I e-file?
1. All criminal case initiating documents
2. All civil pleadings that add new parties
3. Motions to intervene
4. Motions to proceed amicus curiae
5. Documentary exhibits submitted at trial
6. Writs
7. Vouchers for payment under the Criminal Justice Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3006A
8. Transcript Orders (Forms DKT-13 and AO 435)

Will the clerk’s office still maintain a paper case file?
No, the clerk’s office does not maintain a paper case file except for sealed and prisoner cases. The electronic record will be the official record of the court.

How will I get noticed of activity by the court?
A notice of electronic filing (NEF) will be sent to all CM/ECF registered parties when the court files a document. Noticing via NEF will be mandatory for all litigants unless you can show cause to the court why this would present a hardship to you. Non-registered parties will receive the traditional paper notice via United States mail.

Can the general public view CM/ECF cases and the documents in those cases using the internet?
The public can access civil and criminal case documents in CM/ECF unless it has been sealed by the court. To have access to case dockets and electronic documents using the internet, you must have an account in the Public Access to Electronic Records (PACER) system.

Do I need both a PACER account and a CM/ECF account to be an e-filer?
Yes. The PACER account gives you the ability to read case dockets and view electronic images of documents. The CM/ECF account is needed in order to electronically file a document with the Court.

Can my firm have a single CM/ECF account, or do I have to have my own account?
CM/ECF accounts are issued only to individuals. You need your own account.

Can any member of the public use CM/ECF to file documents with the court?
No. Access to the filing portion of CM/ECF is available to registered users only.

When I click on the document link in my e-mail, it prompts me for a login and password. When I enter my CM/ECF login, it tells me login failed. What do I do?
You need to enter your PACER login and password.
1. The first time you click on a document link in your e-mail, the system should display the document without requiring a login. For each subsequent viewing, you will be required to log into PACER and pay a fee per page.
2. In criminal cases, the first time you click on a document link in your e-mail, the system requires you to enter your CM/ECF login and password. Next, you need to enter your PACER login and password. You will not be charged the first time you view a criminal document. If you do not have a PACER login and password, contact the PACER Service Center at 1-800-676-6856.
3. For civil Social Security cases, the first time you click on a document link in your e-mail, the system requires you to enter your CM/ECF login and password. Next, you need to enter your PACER login and password. You will not be charged the first time you view a document. If you do not have a PACER login and password, contact the PACER Service Center at 1-800-676-6856