103. The concern with omitted variable bias is that some other variable not included in the model explains both the independent and dependent variable in the model. For example, in this case there could be an “omitted variable” measuring how much courts care about protecting pro se litigants. A court with judges who care a lot about protecting pro se litigants may implement many pro se reforms and also have favorable case outcomes for pro se litigants because the judges are favorable to pro se litigants. Though it is difficult to rule out all omitted variables, in this case the widespread implementation of at least some reforms, coupled with the significant variation in which and how many are implemented by each court, suggests this kind of omitted variable is unlikely. For more discussion of omitted variable bias, see generally Kevin A. Clarke, The Phantom Menace: Omitted Variable Bias in Econometric Research, 22 Conflict Mgmt & Peace Sci 341 (2005).
“I’m assuming you’re a lawyer, my friend. So I’m curious about your language and the notion that our commentary here represents “far more” of a disservice to pro se litigants than do lawyers. You’ve got a pretty low opinion of your profession.” See, this is exactly the kind of crap I’m talking about, and what’s worse is that you can literally read the entire entry that I wrote and see that I did NOT write that the commentary here represents more of a disservice to pro se litigants than lawyers do a disservice to pro se litigants. However, this entire article is rife with misrepresentations. You give a false definition of litigation privilege. You call normal parts of litigation lawyer’s tricks, like requests to admit (which are in state rules of civil procedure, and pro se litigants can send requests to admit, too). What you call lawyer’s crap in negotiations is just what you have to expect in a negotiation whether or not you’re a lawyer. Your description of stare decisis is deceptive: appellate courts don’t “give excuses” for not overturning lower court’s decisions. I mean, I get it: if you didn’t feed this David-and-Goliath complex, you wouldn’t have a marketing angle. I don’t think that pro se litigants can’t handle small cases that don’t require a lot of discovery or witnesses, and when the facts are on their side, why not? And yes, you should always have a court reporter if possible, but if you plan to make an appeal, you should also know what to say, particularly what to object to on the record, for an appeal. I don’t think that encouraging paranoid beliefs about litigation and lawyers is helpful. From this side, dealing with a pro se litigant who has a chip on their shoulder, thinks everything the lawyer does is to hurt them personally, that the fact that we don’t break attorney-client privilege simply because they want us to is shady business, that upholding our duty to represent our clients is a personal attack and such makes me think that you don’t know what you want. Do you want to go to court acting as your own lawyer, thus being treated like a lawyer and held to the same standards and dealing with the same things new lawyers deal with (even if you screw up. Ask lawyers about their first court appearances), or do you want to not be treated as a lawyer and have the rules bent just for you?
I truly do appreciate the work you do and the information you provide as this is a great service to "all" citizens. Certainly more "legal information" is needed to increase "legal literacy" in the world today. I am amazed that you are able to respond so quickly given your "one man" operation. The "legacy" you are leaving by promoting "legal education" is important to this generation as well as future generations and I commend you for your efforts to impart of your knowledge. ... Leonard S.
Serve The Complaint.  Once a complaint is filed, it must be served on all defendants. Usually, a plaintiff will pay a registered process server to personally serve the defendant. Follow your state or federal rules precisely. One of the most common ways for a plaintiff, especially a  pro se  (federal court) or  pro per  (state court) litigant, to have his or her case dismissed is because of inadequate service.
Table 3C relies on the same data but considers the win rates of different types of litigants based on the total number of policies that the district court has implemented rather than which particular policies the court has implemented. Table 3C thus seeks to test the slightly different hypothesis that there may be a cumulative benefit from implementing these policies even if none is individually impactful.

Unfortunately, the ideal of the multi-door courthouse is at odds with how courts traditionally operate: to support and enhance the lawyer business by making it extremely difficult to get through court without a lawyer. As long as courts are institutionally biased against creating a level playing field for the self-represented, it will make no difference how many doors a court has.


128. However, this result is not robust against a different choice of years. For example, while the point estimate is still negative, the 95 percent confidence interval for a regression run on data from 1999 through 2006 includes zero (though the 90 percent confidence interval does not). Thus, the better takeaway at this point is not that the reform has had a negative impact on win rates but that it has not had a significant positive impact on win rates.

The exclusion of prisoner pro se litigation is a potentially consequential choice. Commentators sometimes discuss trends in prisoner and nonprisoner civil pro se litigation without differentiating between the two classes, but there is no reason to assume that trends in prisoner pro se litigation mirror trends in nonprisoner pro se litigation.80 Prisoner pro se litigation may be an interesting topic of its own. However, most prisoner litigation consists of several unique case types that are pseudocriminal in nature, particularly habeas petitions, that are not necessarily similar to other types of civil pro se litigation. Accordingly, the scope of this Comment excludes cases that are predominantly brought by prisoners in order to focus more narrowly on the dynamics of civil nonprisoner pro se litigation in federal district courts.81
According to the 1996 report on pro se by University of Maryland Law School, 57% of pro se said they could not afford a lawyer, 18% said they did not wish to spend the money to hire a lawyer, 21% said they believed that their case was simple and therefore they did not need an attorney.[47][48] Also, ABA Legal Needs Study shows that 45% of pro se believe that "Lawyers are more concerned with their own self promotion than their client's best interest."[47]
136. See Civil Cases Filed, Terminated, and Pending from SY 1988 to Present (Federal Judicial Center, 2017), archived at http://perma.cc/Y4CY-MVG5. Note that the data is not available for download from the Perma link. For the most recent data, see Civil Cases Filed, Terminated, and Pending from SY 1988 to Present (Federal Judicial Center, 2018), available at http://www.fjc.gov/research/idb/civil-cases-filed-terminated-and-pending-

If you wish to start a civil action in federal court, but do not have an attorney to represent you, you may file your case yourself. This is called "proceeding pro se" which is a Latin term meaning “for yourself.” You will then be called a "pro se litigant." You need not worry if you have had little or no experience with the courts before. You are, however, expected to follow/abide by the rules that govern the practice of law in the Federal Court. Pro Se litigants should be familiar with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Rules of this court. Please visit the Rules section of this web site to review the rules in detail.
Our mission is to provide the highest level of service to the Court and all people having business before the Court. We maintain the public record of court proceedings, provide access to the Court and administrative support to the Court’s judicial officers. We earn the public’s trust and confidence by carrying out our mission in a manner that is accurate, efficient, courteous, and easy to understand.

When lawyers provide substandard representation, unhappy clients can seek relief from state disciplinary authorities and legal malpractice lawsuits. But a pro se litigant’s ability to fix mistakes made by online websites and non-lawyer advisers is much more limited. And the risk of getting inaccurate information may increase when pro se litigants communicate with online businesses in writing, rather than with lawyers in face-to-face meetings.
Not sure whether this applies to every trial court, but the public is also allowed to read (and order copies of) cases in the court. That gives pro se litigants a valuable exposure which is missing from literature regarding litigation. Both of my defamation lawsuits (different defendants) satisfy the prima facie elements of the offenses, but the structure and composition of my first complaint looks very unorthodox. By contrast, my second complaint reflects the exposure I gained in three months by taking note of others' complaints and motions.
If you struggle with confidence, it can feel like an insurmountable problem. Your lack of confidence doesn’t just impact how you feel, it also impacts how you present yourself to the world, and how you are perceived by others. If you don’t feel confident in yourself, in your abilities, or in your worth, other people aren’t going to view you any differently. This can impact your personal relationships, your status at work, and even the simplest daily interactions.
Now in its second year, the SDNY Legal Clinic for Pro Se Litigants has successfully assisted hundreds of litigants in a range of cases including employment discrimination, civil rights, intellectual property and more. In many instances, cases that do not belong in the SDNY are diverted to another more appropriate venue, such as Family Court or Housing Court – saving litigants time and anxiety and sparing the court’s limited resources.
To represent yourself successfully, especially ­if your adversary has a lawyer, you must be ­­­­­­prepared to invest substantial amounts of time in your ­­­­case­­­­­­­—and particu­larly in the many pretrial procedures and maneuvers that can mean the difference ­between winning and losing. To non-lawyers, the legal system seems to center on the outcomes of trials. After all, that’s the dramatic part—and the focus of so many movies and TV shows. If you believe these portrayals, you might think you just have to file a few papers, tell your story to a judge, and claim victory. (This was the belief of Vinny, who represents two ­defendants charged with murder in the wonderful court­room comedy film, My Cousin Vinny. Vinny shows up for an ­arraignment and tries to explain to the judge that the police made a mistake. Vinny is shocked when the judge advises him that he’s not going to set aside all of his state’s procedures just because Vinny finds himself “in the unique position of representing clients who say they didn’t do it.”)
The Supreme Court has held that where a statute permits attorney's fees to be awarded to the prevailing party, the attorney who prevails in a case brought under a federal statute as a pro se litigant is not entitled to an award of attorney's fees.[51] This ruling was based on the court's determination that such statutes contemplate an attorney-client relationship between the party and the attorney prosecuting or defending the case, and that Congress intends to encourage litigants to seek the advice of a competent and detached third party. As the court noted, the various circuits had previously agreed in various rulings "that a pro se litigant who is not a lawyer is not entitled to attorney's fees".[52]
In order to be eligible for lawsuit funding from Legalist, you must have an attorney representing your case. A case where a plaintiff represents themselves is considered pro se representation. We do not fund "pro se" cases. To be considered for legal funding, you will usually need a retainer agreement with the attorney that is on a contingency basis. However, at Legalist, we do offer a free Find an Attorney service, whereby you can find a lawyer for your case.
Complaints about the performance or behavior of Clerk's Office staff should be made to the Clerk of Court or to one of the judges. Complaints about judges' decisions on procedural matters or the merits of disputes can only be addressed through the regular appellate process. Any person alleging that a judge has engaged in conduct prejudicial to the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the courts, or that a judge is unable to discharge all the duties of the office by reason of mental or physical disability may file a complaint pursuant to the Rules of the Tenth Circuit Judicial Council Governing Complaints of Judicial Misconduct or Disability.

15. “Right to counsel” in this Comment refers to a litigant’s right to have an attorney provided if the litigant is unable to afford a lawyer. In other contexts, it is sometimes defined more narrowly, such as a right to a lawyer only in the case of criminal defense or a right to a lawyer only if a litigant can afford his or her own lawyer. See generally, Note, The Indigent’s Right to Counsel in Civil Cases, 76 Yale L J 545 (1967).
Taking the time to express appreciation or to compliment others around you helps create a positive environment. People who interact in these positive environments become more willing to keep that environment positive, creating mutual support and respect. It is also confidence-building to watch other people become happier and surer of themselves based, in part, on the things you have said to them.
 D. Before trial,  the parties may be given an opportunity to meet  with a mediator appointed by the Judge to resolve their case. Mediators are volunteers; they try to help parties reach a friendly agreement. They are  not judges and do not make decisions. If the dispute is not resolved in mediation, the parties will proceed to a trial, usually on the same day.

It was very nice of Kenn to share all that esoteric knowledge regarding the litigation process. I think most lawyers would only be interested in non disclosure of their dirty tricks, so many thanks to Kenn. I have not made the decision of going pro se, but even if I don't, the book is still worth to read to attain some understanding of what is going on behind the scenes in one's lawsuit.
Some still remain skeptical about pro se reform. Commentators have argued that unfair advantages for pro se litigants correspond to unfair disadvantages for their opponents in civil proceedings, that tweaking the court system specifically for pro se litigants undermines the rule of law, and that reforms may lead courts to devote more resources to cases that often prove frivolous.61 Other detractors of trial-court reform for pro se litigants have opposed it on opposite grounds, arguing that these reforms may be counterproductive and harm pro se litigants62 or that they don’t go far enough and that civil Gideon is needed to fully protect the rights of pro se litigants.63
Many lawyers routinely ask clients to pay a “retainer”—a deposit or advance fee—that is kept in a trust account and used as services are provided. Your legal coach may ask for a retainer in order to see that you are serious and have the money to pay. However, you shouldn’t be expected to come up with a large amount of money, because you do not plan on running up high legal bills. A fee of more than $500 is excessive, especially before you know whether the legal coach relationship is really working out.
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125. Although the reform was implemented in May 2001, this Comment codes this variable to 1 only for all cases filed in 2002 and after. The theoretical reason for this is to give the reform the benefit of the doubt; it may have had an effect, but that effect may appear only after it was integrated into EDNY’s normal pro se proceedings. In practice, the regression results do not meaningfully change if this variable is set to “1” for all cases filed in May 2001 and after.


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Beyond the difficulties specific to civil Gideon, there is also empirical uncertainty regarding the value of access to counsel. Dozens of experimental studies have attempted to shed light on the effectiveness of attorneys in various settings in aiding litigants who would otherwise be proceeding pro se.52 One 2010 meta-study conducted on a selection of prior studies suggested that representation by counsel improved a party’s odds of winning a suit by a factor between 1.19 and 13.79.53 While those numbers suggest that access to counsel probably increases a litigant’s odds of winning a case by at least some margin, the size of the range limits the value of these studies to policymakers.54 There is also debate concerning the quality of most of these studies. A 2012 article by Professor D. James Greiner and Cassandra Wolos Pattanayak looked at dozens of previous studies to quantify the added value of access to counsel and found almost all of those studies were unable to accurately measure the effect of access to counsel.55
You cannot sue someone because you believe or you have a feeling the person has violated your rights. You must have facts to support your lawsuit such as the time and place of the incident, witnesses who observed the behavior, and actual articles of evidence such as a gun or a police report or other documentary evidence. The burden of proof is on the plaintiff to win the case; and without factual evidence, the case cannot be won.
Use small claims court techniques in bench trials. Most states have revamped court rules and procedures to accommodate non-lawyers very well in one place: their small claims courts. Small claims cases are not simple; many are conceptually difficult. (Lawyers have been willing to accommodate the small claims court system because those cases present little or no potential for fees.)

Although this analysis focuses on case outcomes, those are by no means the only potential metric for analyzing the impact of pro se reforms. Another relevant, tangible measure is the length of proceedings. Pro se reforms have the potential to greatly expedite pro se proceedings, helping to ensure that litigants are able to move on with their lives as quickly as possible. Shortened proceedings are valuable in their own right without impacting case outcomes. Less tangibly, it may be the case that pro se reforms improve the litigation experience for pro se litigants and help ensure that they feel they have had a fair hearing in court. Increasing satisfaction with court proceedings is a significant benefit to litigants and also boosts the public perception of the legal system—both valuable outcomes that would not show up in the analysis below.100
From Figure 1, it’s difficult to tell whether there is a trend in EDNY meaningfully different from the trend seen in other New York district courts. To investigate this further, this Comment runs the logistic regression described above. Table 4 displays the results of that regression. Because the outcome variable is whether a plaintiff wins or loses a particular case, and each of the independent variables in this regression is a binary dummy variable, the coefficients describe the change in the probability of a case outcome when the variable is set to 1 instead of 0. Hence, a coefficient of 0.5 on the variable “EDNY Reform Dummy” would imply that EDNY Reform increased the chances of a pro se plaintiff winning a case by 0.5 percent.
Posner’s resignation is a powerful reminder of the challenges pro se litigants continue to face. His belief that pro se litigants are frequently mistreated in civil litigation and denied a full and fair opportunity to vindicate their claims is neither new nor limited to federal appellate courts.3 Numerous legal commentators have expressed similar concerns.4 Yet, though the belief that pro se litigants are underserved by the legal community is widespread, the full extent of the challenges they face in court is still only partially understood.

Whether you are a party to a lawsuit, a person representing yourself in a lawsuit, or an attorney representing a party in a lawsuit, you are subject to the rules of procedure for any court in which your case is filed. The federal courts are governed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Fed. R. Civ. P.) and the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (Fed. R. Cr. P.) as well as other rules of procedure regarding other areas such as evidence, appeals, etc. No matter what document or procedure you are involved with, you must follow the particular rule or rules that govern the matter.


Pro Se is a newsletter published bi-monthly by Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York for incarcerated individuals in New York State prisons. Pro Se provides information and analysis on recent developments in the law. Pro Se advises people in prison of changes in the law, provides practice pieces to assist them in complying with statutory and regulatory requirements, and explains technical aspects of various laws affecting prisoners. Pro Se is sent free of charge to individuals incarcerated in New York State who request to be placed on our mailing list.

Whenever the amount directed to be paid by any judgment or order, together with interest (if interest accrues) and the clerk’s statutory charges, shall be paid into court by payment to the clerk, the clerk shall enter satisfaction of said judgment or order. The court will enter satisfaction of any judgment upon receipt of an acknowledgment from the prevailing party that all awards have been satisfied. Local Rule 58.2.
This book explains each step of the civil litigation process from pre-litigation investigation through trial on the merits to give you the best chance of prevailing in your efforts whether you are a plaintiff or a defendant. Its detailed explanations of the various requirements of the litigation process are supported with detailed checklists that insure you leave nothing to chance as you work through the process and help you avoid the costly mistakes pro se litigants commonly make as they fight their lawsuits.
This Part presents an empirical analysis of pro se reforms made in federal district courts. It compares outcomes for pro se litigants in courts that have implemented reforms with outcomes for pro se litigants in courts that have not implemented reforms. The analysis discovers that outcomes are not substantially different in courts that have made these reforms. Hence, this Part suggests that pro se reforms in federal district courts have not impacted outcomes of pro se litigation despite evidence that clerks and judges in those courts believe the reforms are effective at achieving this goal.
Settle! Of course, given the unique obstacles involved with litigating against a pro se party—including the absence of the important buffer between the party and his or her emotions and, more times than not, unreasonable expectations—the key to trial success may be avoiding trial altogether! To that end, early alternative dispute resolution proceedings can be exceedingly beneficial. A neutral third party can often insert reasonableness otherwise lacking into the pro se party’s view of the strengths and weaknesses of the case.
A jury trial begins with the judge choosing prospective jurors to be called for voir dire (examination). Local Rule 47.1. The jury box shall be filled before examination on voir dire and the Court will examine the jurors as to their qualifications. Not less than five (5) days before trial, the parties are to submit written requests for voir dire questions. Unless otherwise ordered, six (6) jurors plus a number of jurors equal to the total number of preemptory challenges which are allowed by law shall be called to complete the initial panel. Local Rule 48.1. After voir dire of all prospective jurors, a jury of six (6) is named and instructed by the judge regarding the issues they will be deciding. Local Rule 51.1.

44. Or at least foreclosing the possibility of the Supreme Court expanding the right to counsel for civil litigants. See Steinberg, 47 Conn L Rev at 788 (cited in note 9) (noting that “[t]he court unanimously rejected a guarantee of counsel, greatly disappointing civil Gideon proponents”); Barton and Bibas, 160 U Pa L Rev at 970 (cited in note 5) (noting that “Turner dealt the death blow to hopes for a federally imposed civil Gideon”).
“Federal cases are difficult for litigants, who are anxious to begin with and understandably confused by what is a complicated legal process. Even when their cases are potentially meritorious, without legal advice it is very easy for litigants to make mistakes that compromise their cases,” said Tarnofsky. “Thanks to the support of the SDNY, the NYLAG Pro Se Clinic is off to a great start.”
From an initial look at Figure 1, no meaningful change in the outcomes of pro se litigation in EDNY appears in the years following the creation of the pro se magistrate’s office. Instead, for all district courts in the New York area, there is seemingly considerable variance in case outcomes on a yearly basis, with pro se litigants performing very similarly on average in both sets of districts before and after the pro se reform. However, Figure 1 does reflect the possibility that the percent of cases won by pro se plaintiffs in the other New York district courts trended downward more than in EDNY. But this is uncertain. With the exception of 1999, the win rates of pro se litigants are relatively similar in EDNY to New York’s other district courts.
Good prep for litigation is hard work, like reading cases and statutes and writing concise, precise and persuasive motions and pleadings. Even then, the “tactics in the courtroom” you mention can still go on. So, mentality can be just as important as hard tangible work. Understand that lawyers want to win too, and they’ll do whatever they think it takes to do so. Cutting the ethical edge is just a day at work for some of them. Your job is to not get up in your feelings about any of that stuff. I know that’s difficult to do, and I struggle with it all the time, but it does not help you win. Do the work, understand your arguments and stay on point.

128. However, this result is not robust against a different choice of years. For example, while the point estimate is still negative, the 95 percent confidence interval for a regression run on data from 1999 through 2006 includes zero (though the 90 percent confidence interval does not). Thus, the better takeaway at this point is not that the reform has had a negative impact on win rates but that it has not had a significant positive impact on win rates.

Fixed Fees. A fixed fee is a set fee for a particular project. For example, a lawyer may charge $500 to write your will. It is unlikely that an attorney will suggest a fixed fee to coach you through your whole case, because the lawyer will have little idea of the amount of work involved. But the lawyer may suggest fixed fees for particular services along the way. For example, you may find a lawyer willing to charge you no more than a specific sum of money to review and edit your complaint or to help you respond to your opponent’s interrogatories.

It can be difficult to decide whether to represent yourself in a child custody or child support hearing. Take the time to give careful consideration to each of the factors mentioned above. Additionally, you should speak to a competent attorney with experience in child custody cases in your state. He or she can help you decide whether filing for custody pro se is a good decision, based on the facts of your case and your individual needs.
If you’re a law student—or plan to go to law school—this book is a useful and easy-to follow guide to the basics of civil procedure and litigation, from initial pleadings and discovery to appeal. The knowledge of general court procedures and fluency with legal terminology that you will gain from reading this book will help you successfully transition to law school and enhance your understanding of assigned casebook readings.
A civil case, which is the only type of case you can commence in federal court, is different from a criminal case, which can only be commenced by government officials. In a civil case, you do not have a constitutional right to appointed counsel. Therefore, if you start a civil case pro se, you should be prepared to pursue it to completion on your own.
However, the few reliable studies conducted thus far tend to suggest that providing access to counsel significantly improves outcomes for civil litigants. Greiner and Pattanayak identified two prior studies that were properly conducted to evaluate the effects of access to counsel. While noting it was premature to draw conclusions, they pointed out that one of those studies found that access to counsel was effective in improving case outcomes, and the other study found it effective in improving case outcomes in one of its two experimental settings.56 A follow-up experiment by Greiner, Pattanayak, and Jonathan Hennessy found that the assistance of counsel led to a significant improvement in litigation outcomes compared to more piecemeal assistance.57 Specifically, they found that, from a sample of litigants facing eviction in a district court, about one-third retained their rental units after receiving unbundled legal assistance—legal aid short of an
In Faretta v. California,[6] the Supreme Court of the United States held that criminal defendants have a constitutional right to refuse counsel and represent themselves in state criminal proceedings. That said, the right to represent oneself is not absolute. It is the Court's right and duty to determine if a particular individual is capable of representing himself, and can inquire into the individual's lucidity and mental status to make that determination.[7]
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