This web page is designed to provide information for people who are representing themselves in cases in the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, also called the Ninth Circuit.
When you are without an attorney, you are "proceeding pro se." If you represent yourself in court, you are called a "pro se litigant" or a "self-represented litigant." "Pro se" is a Latin legal term meaning "on one's own behalf" and a "litigant" is someone who is either suing or being sued in court.
The Constitution provides a right to an attorney for defendants in criminal cases only. In all other types of cases, you do not have a constitutional right to a lawyer appointed or paid for by the court. Therefore, if you start a case as a "pro se litigant," you should be prepared to handle it on your own. In a small number of cases, the Ninth Circuit can appoint you a "pro bono" attorney. "Pro bono" is another Latin legal term meaning "for the public good." A "pro bono attorney" is a volunteer that works for a client for free or no charge.
This webpage will provide you with general information about the Ninth Circuit, and how to process a case in the Ninth Circuit. As a reminder: the Ninth Circuit and court employees are legally required to remain neutral; that means they cannot give you advice about how to win your case. If you have a procedural question, for example, which forms to send to the court or when a form is due, the court materials referenced below should provide the answer. The court is not your lawyer and cannot give you legal advice. The court also cannot refer you to a specific lawyer.
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE NINTH CIRCUIT
The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is a court of limited jurisdiction. This means that there are only certain types of cases that the court has jurisdiction - or authority - to hear. The general rule is that the Ninth Circuit can hear final decisions of federal district courts (trial courts) within the geographical area of the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit can also hear final decisions of some federal agencies within the Ninth Circuit. For more information about the Ninth Circuit's jurisdiction, please review the Ninth Circuit Appellate Jurisdiction Outline.
The Ninth Circuit covers the following states and territories: Alaska, Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, and Washington. A map of the geographical area is available here.
Pro se litigants have two options for filing documents in the Ninth Circuit.
(1) Option One: Register for Ninth Circuit CM/ECF
The Ninth Circuit allows electronic case filing via Ninth Circuit CM/ECF. Pro se litigants may, but are not required to, register for electronic case filing in CM/ECF. The court strongly encourages pro se litigants to register for Ninth Circuit CM/ECF if they are able. You do not need any special permission to register for CM/ECF, and registration is free. You will not be able to submit your case opening documents this way, but once your case has been opened, you will be able to file all your documents through CM/ECF.
Ninth Circuit CM/ECF is different than CM/ECF in the district courts. A litigant must register separately for Ninth Circuit CM/ECF through their PACER account even if he/she is already registered in a district court.
If a pro se litigant is registered for CM/ECF, the litigant will receive email notification immediately about any documents, notices, or orders filed in the litigant's case. The email notification will have a summary of the document filed and a link with access to the document. A registered litigant is allowed "one free look" of each document filed. The "one free look" expires 15 days after the email is sent. The court strongly encourages litigants to download or print the document immediately. If a litigant wishes to view a document more than once, the litigant will have to pay fees to PACER.
You would also not need to serve your filings on other parties who are registered for CM/ECF.
Information on how to register and log into CM/ECF is found here.
NOTE: For cases opened in our new case management system (ACMS), pro se litigants are currently not able to register for electronic filing and will need to use Option (2).
(2) Option Two: Be a "paper filer" and submit pleadings via this website, mail, or in person at the courthouse.
Pro se litigants who are not registered for CM/ECF will be "paper filers." Paper filers will receive documents, notices and orders from the court and other parties via U.S. Mail. A paper filer can submit documents to the court for filing in three ways:
In-person at the Browning Courthouse, 95 Seventh Street, San Francisco, CA 94103. If the courthouse is closed to the general public, there will be a drop box in the lobby.
Via U.S. Mail or commercial carrier sent to U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, P.O. Box 193939, San Francisco, CA 94119-3939. Use the street address (95 7th Street, San Francisco, CA 94013) for those carriers who will not deliver to a Post Office box.
This webpage below.
To submit a document via the webpage below, you must have Internet access and an email address. Court staff will review the document for compliance with applicable rules, as is done for documents received via mail or in person. If the documents cannot be filed, you will receive an email explaining why it cannot and what, if anything, you can do to correct the problem. To file a document via the court's website, please go here:
A pro se litigant does not need any special permission to register for CM/ECF. Registration information is available here.
If you are not registered and do not wish to register for CM/ECF or if your case was opened in ACMS, you may either mail the document to the court or submit via the court's website. To submit a document via the court's website, please go here: please go here.
An "appeal" is a case that seeks review of an order issued by a federal district court, Tax Court or Bankruptcy Appellate Panel. A "petition for review" seeks review of a federal agency
decision, such as the Board of Immigration Appeals.
INFORMATION ABOUT APPEALS FROM DISTRICT COURT, BAP, OR TAX COURT CASES
The first step to opening an appeal is filing a notice of appeal. The notice of appeal is a document that states who you are, what you want to appeal, and lists the lower court case number. You must file the notice of appeal in your lower court case, not in the Ninth Circuit. You may use Form 1, Form 2, or Form 5, depending on the court.
After you file a notice of appeal in the lower court, that court notifies the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit then opens a new case for you and will send you information about your new Ninth Circuit case, including a case number.
No. After you file your notice of appeal, you will get a new Ninth Circuit case number.
For appeals from the district court, the filing fee for an appeal is $505 and it is paid to the district court. For appeals from the tax court, the filing fee for an appeal is $500 and it is paid to the tax court. For appeals from the BAP, the filing fee is $500 and it is paid to the Ninth Circuit. If you do not have money to pay the filing fee, you can ask the court to waive the filing fee by filing a "motion to proceed in forma pauperis." The motion to proceed in forma pauperis can be granted by either the district court or the court of appeals. You may use Form 4 or its equivalent.
INFORMATION ABOUT SEEKING REVIEW OF FEDERAL AGENCY DECISIONS, INCLUDING A DECISION OF THE BOARD OF IMMIGRATION APPEALS
To appeal a decision from a federal agency (including the Board of Immigration Appeals), you need to file a petition for review in the Ninth Circuit. A petition for review needs to include your name, what order you are seeking review of, what agency issued the order, the date of the order, and include a copy of the order. You may use Form 3.
No. After you file your petition for review, you will get a new Ninth Circuit case number.
The filing fee for a petition for review is $500 and it is paid to the Ninth Circuit. You may pay either by check or money order, made out to "US Courts." If you do not have money to pay the filing fee, you can ask the Ninth Circuit to waive the filing fee by filing a "motion to proceed in forma pauperis." You may use Form 4.
INFORMATION ABOUT STARTING AN ORIGINAL ACTION, SUCH AS A PETITION FOR A WRIT OF MANDAMUS, IN THE NINTH CIRCUIT
A petition for a writ of mandamus is filed in the court of appeals. There is no form for a petition for a writ of mandamus. If you are filing a petition for a writ of mandamus, you are the "petitioner." The "respondent" is often the court that issued the order that you do not agree with. There is often a "real party of interest" in mandamus petitions, which is the person/entity who needs to respond to the petition for writ of mandamus. This is considered extraordinary relief and is rarely granted.
You cannot submit these electronically either via CM/ECF or this website, you must submit in person or by U.S. Mail. In your petition for a writ of mandamus, please include your name, your contact information, the name of the respondent, the name of the real party of interest (if any), the lower court case number (if any), what you want the Ninth Circuit to do, and why the Ninth Circuit should do that.
The filing fee for a petition for a writ of mandamus is $500 and it is paid to the Ninth Circuit. You may pay either by check or money order, made out to "US Courts." If you do not have money to pay the filing fee, you can ask the Ninth Circuit to waive the filing fee by filing a "motion to proceed in forma pauperis." You may use Form 4.
There may be a different type of case that is not discussed above, such as a petition for permission to appeal or an application for leave to file a second or successive habeas petition. The rules for these differ. Please consider the information available on our website or consult the Clerk's Office for assistance.
FORMS AND INFORMATION FOR PRO SE LITIGANTS
Below please find forms and information packets that may be helpful to your case.