FAQs - Pro Se Parties

Q.  What is the phone number and mailing address for the court?

Patricia S. Connor, Clerk 
United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit 
1100 E. Main Street, Suite 501 
Richmond, Virginia 23219-3517 
(804) 916-2700

Q. What are the business hours for the clerk's office? 

8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday, with the exception of holidays.

Q. What happens after the court receives my appeal?

The clerk dockets the appeal and assigns a case number. If appropriate, the clerk issues an informal briefing order, copying all parties to the appeal. Under Local Rule 34(b), the court uses an informal briefing schedule in cases involving pro se litigants to facilitate briefing and consideration of the case on the merits without requiring the pro se litigant to comply with formal briefing requirements. For more information, see Pro Se Procedures.

Q. How much does it cost to file an appeal?

Federal court fees are set by the U.S. Judicial Conference pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1913. Click here for the court's fee schedule.

Q. How do I pay the fee for an appeal?

The fee for a direct appeal from the district court is $505, payable to the Clerk, U.S. District Court, when the notice of appeal is filed. Petitions for review or mandamus filed in the court of appeals should be accompanied by a $500 fee payable to the Clerk, U.S. Court of Appeals, when filed.  

Q. How do I apply for Criminal Justice Act status?

If a party proceeded under the Criminal Justice Act in the district court and that status was never terminated, CJA status continues on appeal and no fee or further application is required. If a CJA application is required, a fee notice is issued to appellant and includes a CJA 23 application.  The CJA 23 application is filed in the court of appeals.

Q. How do I apply for in forma pauperis status?

If a party proceeded in forma pauperis in the district court and that status was never terminated, in forma pauperis status continues on appeal and no fee or further application is required. If an in forma pauperis application is required, a fee notice is issued to appellant and includes an in forma pauperis application.  The in forma pauperis application is filed in the court of appeals. 

Q. How does a prisoner apply for leave to proceed under the Prison Litigation Reform Act?

When a prisoner notes an appeal in a civil, non-habeas, non-§ 2255 case, the prisoner must pay the $505 appeal fee to the district court or file in the court of appeals a PLRA application, a PLRA consent to collection of fees, and prisoner trust account statement. For mandamus petitions arising from civil cases, the prisoner must pay the $500 mandamus fee to the court of appeals or file the PLRA forms in the court of appeals. 

Q. How long does it take the court to decide a case?

The court's median disposition time for cases decided on the merits is about six months from notice of appeal to entry of judgment. Disposition times may vary widely from case to case. 

Q. Am I required to file documents electronically?

Pro se litigants generally do not file documents electronically. The clerk will scan all pro se filings in paper format, including any pro se briefs, and attach the documents to the relevant docket entry. Pro se documents should be served on opposing counsel in paper form and filed in paper form addressed to: 

Patricia S. Connor, Clerk
United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit 
1100 E. Main Street, Suite 501
Richmond, Virginia 23219-3517

Q. How can I view the docket sheet and documents filed in my case on the internet?

Appellate docket sheets and documents can be viewed via PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records).  Go to http://www.pacer.gov/register.html for PACER account registration information. There is no registration fee. However, the Judicial Conference of the United States has established a fee for access to information in PACER. More information is available on the PACER website.  One PACER account may be used to view publicly-accessible documents in all federal courts. If you need assistance with registration or technical issues, contact PACER at (800) 676-6856, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Central Time, Monday through Friday.

Q. How do I request permission to file documents electronically?

The CM/ECF (Case Management/Electronic Case Filing) system is used to file documents electronically. A pro se litigant who is a party in a case pending before this court may request permission to file documents electronically in that case. Instructions for Pro Se Filers may be found in the Required Steps for Registration as an ECF Filer. Please note that motions for leave to file documents electronically will be considered after the application and registration requirements have been completed.

Q. Can I file additional evidence to support my case?

The court of appeals will examine the record established by the trial court or agency, but does not receive additional evidence or hear witnesses.

Q. When are opinions available on the court's website?

The court's opinions are posted daily beginning at 2:30 p.m. and can be found under Daily Opinions. There is no fee for accessing opinions posted on the court's website.  Opinions are available in PDF format; therefore, users will need Adobe Reader to view them. You can also register to receive opinions via email or an RSS feed each day. 

Q. How can I find an opinion in a particular case?

You can search opinions by lead case number or by the last name of a lead party. A text-search of the court's opinions from 1996 to date is also available. Go to Search Opinions.

Q. How do I file a complaint against a federal judge? 

Congress has created a procedure that permits any person to file a complaint in the courts about the behavior of federal judges, but not about the decisions federal judges make in deciding cases. More information and a Judicial Complaint Form can be found on our web page, Judicial Conduct & Disability. Complaints against non-federal judges should be filed with the state agency or commission that handles complaints against judges.