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What is the difference between "Pro per" and "Pro se"?

Oakland, CA |
Filed under: Litigation

I might be representing myself in a lawsuit and am in the process of responding to the Petition. I've heard that I should list myself as "Pro se," but I've also heard "Pro per." What is the difference, and what should I do?

Also, in a sample Response form, I've seen "Does 1-20" in addition to putting my name as the Respondent. What is "Does 1-20" and should I put it down?

Attorney Answers 2


"Pro per" and "pro se" are both shortened Latin phrases meaning an individual acting as his or her own attorney in a lawsuit. Whatever the difference may have been to Ovid -- I never studied Latin -- there's no difference in court. It is simply a stylistic preference of the judge or lawyer or individual.

The "Does" represent persons as yet unknown by plaintiff who may be responsible for the wrongdoing alleged in the complaint. If you've been sued, you just answer or respond on behalf of yourself -- not the Does. Plaintiff may amend the complaint later to specify who the Does are.

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You're WRONG---the terms are not interchangeable. Don't law schools teach this stuff? See the answer below for a thorough and factual discussion. (these first two responses by lawyers should be relegated to the bottom of the list)


Pro Se is usually used in federal court.

Pro Per is usually used in state court.

It means a party representing themselves.

My standard disclaimer: I am not offering legal advice, assume I do not know the law in your state and that I am just making suggestions for starting points for when you do speak with an attorney. Do NOT rely on anything I write and contact a lawyer in your area immediately after reading my posting.

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Go back to law school or read your Black's before giving advice. Or, in the interest of time, read the comment below posted by a non-lawyer which explains the difference quite thoroughly. p.s. Your disclaimer reads like an ad for your "profession".

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