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City Bar Justice Center Pro Se Project: Open for Attorney Phone Appointments During COVID-19 Outbreak
by City Bar Justice Center Pro Se Project April 8, 2020
Pro se (unrepresented) litigants face additional uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic. The City Bar Justice Center’s Pro Se Legal Assistance Project is continuing to conduct client intake and schedule phone appointments with attorneys to provide free, brief legal advice to pro se plaintiffs and defendants with cases in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn. Litigants should call (212) 382-4729 to complete our intake process and to schedule a telephone appointment. We will continue working remotely for the foreseeable future.
The following FAQ should offer some guidance to pro se litigants:
May I file a new lawsuit in the Brooklyn federal courthouse?
Yes. You may file a new, civil lawsuit by either mailing the original Complaint and Summonses for each defendant to the “Office of the Pro Se Clerk” in the Brooklyn courthouse or by dropping off the originals with the security guards in the courthouse. The clerk’s office is not open to accept pro se filings at this time. If you mail the Complaint and Summonses, send them to “Office of the Pro Se Clerk, U.S. District Court for the E.D.N.Y., 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn, NY 11201.” The clerk’s office will consider the Complaint filed on the date that they receive it, so be sure to send the mail certified and make sure that it will arrive within the statute of limitations. Always keep 1 copy for your records and 1 copy to serve on each defendant.
Are statutes of limitations being tolled (paused) in federal court?
No. You should file your lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations. If you have questions about the statute of limitations, call the City Bar Justice Center’s Pro Se Project for brief legal advice at (212) 382-4729.
May I still apply for a fee waiver (in forma pauperis status) to file the Complaint?
Yes. You should submit your fee waiver application at the same time as your Complaint. If the Court agrees that you qualify for a fee waiver, it will instruct the U.S. Marshals Service to serve the Complaint and Summons on each defendant. However, due to COVID-19 health concerns, the court has suspended all service by the U.S. Marshals until April 27, 2020. So, if you are given the fee waiver, you should not expect the U.S. Marshalls to serve your Complaint until after that date. Your case will be stayed (paused) until it is served.
I already have a case in E.D.N.Y. How do I file a letter or motion with the Court?
You have two options to file: (1) mail the original to the “Office of the Pro Se Clerk;” or (2) drop off the original with the security guards inside the courthouse lobby. The security guards will stamp your document with the date and time of receipt and bring it to the clerk’s office for you. Your document will be considered filed based on the date stamp. If you mail your document to the Office of the Pro Se Clerk, the document will be considered filed on the date that the clerk’s office receives it. Remember to include your docket number under the address line.
As with any document you file with the Court, you should keep 1 copy for your records and 1 copy to serve on each defendant or lawyer for each defendant.
Where can I check for the latest updates on the operations of the courthouse?
Check the court’s website at www.nyed.uscourts.gov. There are also a number of forms available under “Self-Represented Litigants” that you can download and print.
Who can I call with questions about my case?
For brief advice on a case in Brooklyn, call the City Bar Justice Center’s Pro Se Project at (212) 382-4729.
Pro se litigants with cases in the Eastern District Central Islip courthouse should contact the Hofstra University Legal Assistance Project by email at PSLAP@Hofstra.edu or by phone at (631) 297-2575.
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