A "Guide to Civil Lawsuits in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado" is now available. It serves as an introduction to the court for people representing themselves, how to get started, sources of legal assistance, links to important rules and documents, and other explanatory material about civil lawsuits in federal court. The Guide is available HERE.
This section of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado’s website is intended to provide procedural information to people who are representing themselves in the filing and prosecution, or defense, of a civil lawsuit. This means that you are not represented by an attorney, and you are suing or being sued by another person, a business entity, or a governmental entity. This section of the Court’s website does not apply to criminal cases. Another word for representing yourself is proceeding pro se. According to Black’s Law Dictionary (9th ed. 2009), pro se is a Latin phrase that means “on one’s own behalf.”
In this District, pro se litigants must follow the same rules and procedures that litigants who are represented by attorneys must follow, including the payment of all required filing and court fees. See Nielson v. Price, 17 F.3d 1276, 1277 (10th Cir. 1994). Thus, it is important to read all of the information on this page very carefully, so that you are better prepared to represent yourself in your pending litigation.
Also, in this District, pro se litigants are required to use certain forms in the prosecution of their lawsuit. The forms are described below.
- If your mailing address changes while your case is pending, you must provide the Clerk of Court’s office with your new address within five days of the change. Send it to: Clerk of the United States District Court, 901 19th St., Denver, CO 80294.
- You must appear in person (unless you are incarcerated and the judge presiding over your case tells you to appear by telephone) in the appropriate courtroom and courthouse for all conferences and hearings in your case. The judge presiding over your case will tell you where to go in the order that sets the conference or hearing. Please remember that there are two courthouses in this District, both in Denver, where the majority of cases are commenced, presided over by a Denver-based judge, and where hearings and trial are held: 1) the Alfred A. Arraj Courthouse, 901 19th Street, Denver, CO 80294 and 2) the Byron G. Rogers Courthouse, 1929 Stout Street, Denver, CO 80294. To enter either courthouse, you must present valid, non-expired government-issued photo identification.
Please be aware that there are other federal judiciary locations in Colorado, located in Grand Junction, Durango, and Colorado Springs. For information regarding those locations, including addresses and phone numbers, please see the courthouse location page. Please also be aware that if your case is assigned to Senior Judge Richard P. Matsch, the appropriate courtroom will be located in the Byron White Courthouse, 1823 Stout Street, Denver, CO 80202. Again, the judge presiding over your case will tell you where to go in the order that sets the conference or hearing.
The federal courthouses in Denver are not located at the intersection of Colfax and Broadway. The courthouse located there is the courthouse for the City and County of Denver, which is different from federal court.
- The judge, the judge’s staff, and the Clerk’s Office staff are not allowed to talk to you about your case without all of the other parties and their legal representatives present, whether in person or by telephone, except during an early neutral evaluation or a settlement conference. Early neutral evaluations and settlement conferences are confirmed by a written order from the judge scheduling a particular date and time for the conference. The judge, the judge’s staff, and the Clerk’s Office staff are never allowed to give you legal advice.
- If you want the judge to do something in your case, you must file a motion asking the judge to do it and explaining why you want it done. However, if you are not incarcerated, before you file any motion, you must either call or write to the attorneys for the other parties and ask them whether they agree or disagree with what you want to ask the judge to do. Then, at the beginning of your written motion, you must tell the judge in writing that you called or wrote the attorneys for the other parties and how they responded to what you want to do. Failure to do this will likely result in your motion being denied.
If you are incarcerated, you do not need to ask the attorneys for the other parties whether they agree or disagree with what you want to ask the judge to do before you file your motion.
- When another party or an attorney files a motion that you disagree with, you have twenty-one (21) days after the date of service of the motion to file a written response to it. If you don’t file your response within twenty-one (21) days after the date of service, the judge will decide the motion without the benefit of your point of view.
- If you need additional time to complete something for which the judge has set a deadline, you must file a motion before the deadline expires asking for a specific amount of additional time and providing a good reason for why you need it.
- If you use abusive, offensive, obscene or inappropriate language in any document you file with the court, the judge may strike your document and refuse to consider it.
- Unless your case or your personal circumstances are very unusual, the judge cannot appoint an attorney to represent you in your case. Please be aware that the right to an attorney mentioned in the United States Constitution does not extend to civil litigation. The judge cannot require an attorney to represent you in a civil case, and the court does not have any money that it can use to hire an attorney for you in a civil case. Sometimes, the court may be able to find an attorney to represent you as a volunteer. If you want to ask the judge to help find a volunteer attorney who may be able to represent you, you must file a motion and explain your unusual circumstances.
- There are two sets of formal rules that apply to civil cases in this court: (1) the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and (2) the Local Rules for the United States District Court for the District of Colorado. Paper copies of the Local Rules are available in the Clerk’s Office on the first floor of the Alfred A. Arraj United States Courthouse, 901 19th St., Denver, CO 80294. The Clerk’s Office has a copy of the Federal Rules available for viewing only.
In addition to these formal rules, each of the District Judges has his or her own Practice Standards, which all parties appearing before them must follow. You should take the time to carefully review the Federal and Local Rules, as well as the Practice Standards of the District Judge presiding over your case.
- Even though you don’t have an attorney representing you in your case, you are required to follow the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Local Rules for the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, and the District Judge’s Practice Standards. Failure to follow the rules and practice standards, and/or failure to follow court orders, may result in the judge ordering you to pay money to the other parties or dismissing your case.
- Even though you don’t have an attorney representing you in your case, you are required to participate in the ordinary events associated with being a party to a lawsuit, like discovery, court hearings, settlement conferences, early neutral evaluations and trial. If you fail to do so, the judge may impose monetary and non-monetary sanctions on you, up to and including either dismissal of your case (if you are the plaintiff) or entry of judgment against you (if you are the defendant).