What is a difference between Pro Se and Pro Per, in the United States legal system?

From my understanding, both terms mean a party representing themselves.

I read on https://www.avvo.com/legal-answers/what-is-the-difference-between--pro-per--and--pro--45336.html:

  • Pro Se is usually used in federal court.
  • Pro Per is usually used in state court.

If the statement is accurate, why, and is there any other difference?

2 Answers 2


There isn't a difference. The terminology in England and Wales that means the same thing is "litigant in person", with the source of these Latin phrases having abandoned them in favor of plain English terminology.

The variation of usage, however, does not necessarily break down on a federal v. state court basis. Pro se is the majority usage, but the variation is more regional, within state courts, than it is a federal v. state divide. California and Michigan, for example, use both terms and use them interchangeably. If there is a historical reason for the variation in terminology, I haven't groked it.

Incidentally, there was historically a subtle distinction between the two concepts related to consent to the personal jurisdiction of the court that has long since become obsolete (more than a century ago), but which movements such as the "sovereign person" movement errantly believe has great legal importance to the power of a court over them.


Pro Se and Pro Per both means for oneself. Always be your own best advocate.

Every state uses either one of them. In Michigan Pro per is used in Family Court.

So check with your state court or ask your local attorney what is used.

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