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How-To: File Documents in Federal Court

Background: You have legal documents that you need to file in Federal Court
Problem: You are unsure how/where to submit your documents
Solution: You follow this guide for filing legal papers in Federal Court

I. Definitions

the depositing of documents with the court or with other public officials to become preserved as part of the official record. Often specific deadlines are imposed by which time the documents must be filed. Failure to meet the deadline may result in the imposition of late fees or may result in the document being excluded from consideration. Court documents must be served on the opposing party.
see service. See also return [FILING].
statements, in logical and legal form, of the facts that constitute plaintiff's cause of action and defendant's ground of defense. Pleadings are other allegations by the parties affirming or denying certain matters of fact, or other statements in support or derogation of certain principles of law, which are intended to describe to the court or jury the real matter in dispute.
AFFIRMATIVE PLEADINGS: any defensive pleadings that affirmatively allege the existence of facts, rather than merely deny the existence of the facts alleged by the plaintiff. For instance, if a plaintiff alleges the nonpayment of a promissory note, the defendant may deny that the note exists, or he may affirmatively plead that the note has been paid.


II. Legal Citations

Local Rule 1.03 USFLMD | Docketing and Assignment of Cases
"(a) Upon the filing of the initial paper or pleading in any case the Clerk shall docket the proceeding as a civil, criminal or miscellaneous action. Each case or proceeding shall be given a six-part docket number,"

III. Samples

# PDF Comments
1logoAdobeTBD case. USFLMD. 2020. Pro Se Filing. Case Initiation Package (pauperis, Summons/, etc.)
2logoAdobeUSFLMD. 2020. Pro Se Filing. Case Initiation Package (Pauperis).

IV. Quick Commentary

  • Case Initiation (ie, filing documents to initiate a new case):
    1. Assemble the package
      1. Civil Cover sheet (click here to learn how to fill one out)
      2. Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis (click here to learn how)
      3. Complaint (click here to learn how to write one)
      4. Summons/ (click here to learn how to effectuate one)
    2. Locate your courthouse
    3. Deliver your package to the courthouse. Either:
      • by Mail; or
      • by Hand
  • Regular Document (ie, filing additional documents onto a current case):
    • Option A: Mail the document to your courthouse;
    • Option B: Hand-Deliver the document to your courthouse; or
    • Option C: File the document electronically
      1. USFLMD (note: this is a temporary site that was setup due to the COVID-19 pandemic):
        • Navigate to webpage
        • Enter filing information
        • Submit documents
          • Warning: there is a file size limitation (≈10MB)
      2. USFLND:
        • Request access for electronic filing (file a motion with your Court)
        • Navigate to the PACER site
        • Submit documents
      3. USFLSD:
        • Request access for electronic filing (file a motion with your Court)
        • Navigate to the PACER site
        • Submit documents
  • Save all of your documents as PDFs (Florida's district courts only accepts electronic PDFs).

V. Additional Notes

  • Bad news: By default, Florida's Federal Courts require pro se litigants to mail/deliver court documents
  • Good News: USFLMD has a (temporary) webpage that permits online/electronic filing
  • Good News: PACER has electronic filing functionality
    • You will just need to get the Judge's permission ahead of time (click here to learn how)
  • Size Limits (for files):
    • PACER = 50MB
    • USFLMD's temporary site = 10MB

VI. Additional Resources

VII. Conclusion

If you're just opening a case then you will have to physically deliver your legal documents (either by mail or by hand).

If, however, you're filing onto a current case then you might be able to file it electronically (see the instructions from above).

This is the process for the federal courts in Florida. The process is much more user-friendly at DOAH, in Florida's state courts, and in Florida's courts of appeal.


Congratulations! You're now booked up on how/where to file your legal papers (federal).

Please get the justice you deserve.


Pages That You
Might Also Like
Case Numbers Decoded
Lookup Table: US in FL
How-To: PACER Fee Exemption
File a Document at DOAH File a Document with the FCHR File a Document with Florida's First DCA
How-To: Cover Sheet (Federal) How-To: Complaint (Federal)
Rule 25-3 11th. Cir. R.
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