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Procedures for Filing in the Southern District

A court’s jurisdiction is its authority to hear and decide cases. The United States District Courts have limited jurisdiction to adjudicate lawsuits. You should indicate what grounds you have for filing in federal court.

The word "venue" refers to the geographic location where a case is filed or tried. There are rules on where you must file your complaint. If you do not comply with these rules, your action may be transferred to another district court or dismissed. You should check the federal venue statutes, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1391 - 1412, the statute under which you are proceeding, and Local Rule 3 for the proper venue before filing your action.

The State of Iowa is divided into the Northern and Southern Districts. US Highway 30 is a rough estimate of the dividing line between the 2 districts, with the Southern District of Iowa being comprised of the following divisions/counties:

The Central (Des Moines) Division includes: Adair, Adams, Appanoose, Boone, Clarke, Dallas, Davis, Decatur, Greene, Guthrie, Jasper, Jefferson, Keokuk, Lucas, Madison, Mahaska, Marion, Marshall, Monroe, Polk, Poweshiek, Ringgold, Story, Taylor, Union, Wapello, Warren, and Wayne counties.

The Eastern (Davenport) Division includes: Clinton, Des Moines, Henry, Johnson, Lee, Louisa, Muscatine, Scott, Van Buren, and Washington counties.

The Western (Council Bluffs) Division includes: Audubon, Cass, Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Montgomery, Page, Pottawattamie, and Shelby counties.

All other counties in Iowa are part of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa.


If you file a complaint in the Southern District of Iowa, you must follow the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as well as the Court's Local Rules. Even if you proceed pro se you must follow these rules.


To ensure prompt delivery of documents, you must file a change of address with the Court every time your address changes. Failure to do so will prevent the Court from notifying you of developments in your case and may result in dismissal of your action.

Court personnel, including District Court Judges, Magistrate Judges, the Clerk of Court, and all staff, are prohibited by law from giving you legal advice. You should seek legal advice from your attorney or a legal clinic.


To file a complaint, complete a complaint form or a social security complaint form and mail the original to the Clerk’s Office. (If you pay the filing fee you must also submit one copy of the complaint for each defendant). All copies must conform to the original. In addition, the complaint must:
(1) be typed or legibly written in pen;
(2) be signed by each plaintiff; and
(3) conform to the instructions in the "Filing Fee" section below.

Please refer to Local Rule 10 for detailed information regarding the formatting of documents submitted to the Court. You should answer all questions on the complaint form concisely and to the best of your ability. If you need extra space to answer a question, insert an additional page in the appropriate place. Do not use the back of the page unless you cannot obtain blank paper. Do not name as a plaintiff in your complaint any other person, unless he or she is raising claims which arise from the same incident or involve the same issue as the claim raised in your complaint. All plaintiffs must sign the complaint.

The fee for filing an action in a United States District Court is $402. A check or money order should be made payable to "Clerk, United States District Court." The Clerk’s Office also accepts debit and credit cards, in person or over the phone. If you pay the $402 filing fee, you will be responsible for service upon each defendant. To properly serve the defendant(s) you must submit to the Clerk’s Office for each named defendant a copy of the complaint, and a completed summons. The Clerk’s Office will return to you each defendant's copy of the complaint for you to serve and, if you provided one, a copy for your own records. In the alternative, you may request that the defendant(s) waive service. Instructions and forms for requesting waiver of service are available from the Clerk's Office. (Note: If a defendant fails to waive service, you will still be responsible for serving upon them a summons and a complaint.)

If you are financially unable to pay the filing fee, you may request that the Court file your action without prepayment of costs. One whose complaint is filed without the payment of the filing fee is said to proceed in forma pauperis. (NOTE: Each plaintiff named in your complaint must submit a separate application if the complaint is to be filed in forma pauperis).

A pro se litigant filing a civil complaint does not have an absolute right to a court-appointed attorney. A motion for appointment of counsel may be made, but the Court has the discretion to grant or deny the request


All filings must contain the case number and the caption.


Certificate of Service

To file a document you must submit the original to the Clerk’s Office. The original document must include a certificate of service which should be in the following form:

Certificate of Service
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing was mailed to
[Opposing Party or Counsel] at [Address] on. [Date]

[Your Signature]

Any document received by the Court that fails to include a certificate of service may be returned. In addition to filing the original document with the Court, you must mail a copy of each document to all other parties, or if they have counsel, to their attorney(s).

If you do not timely respond to a motion filed by another party, you may waive your right to challenge the subject matter of the motion. Applicable time periods are set forth in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Court's Local Rules.

It is improper to send letters directly to District or Magistrate Judges regarding cases pending before them. All correspondence should be forwarded to the Clerk of Court. Copies of correspondence should also be sent to all other parties, or if they have counsel, to their attorney(s).

All correspondence, fees, legal documents, etc. should be mailed to the appropriate divisional office. See the section above titled “Venue” for a listing of counties in each division.

Central Division Address:
Clerk of Court
123 East Walnut Street
Room 300
Des Moines, Iowa 50309

Eastern Division Address:
Clerk of Court
131 East 4th Street
Suite 150
Davenport, Iowa 52801
Phone: (563) 884-7607

Western Division Address:
Clerk of Court
2146 27th Avenue
Room 600
Council Bluffs, Iowa 51501