There’s no way to avoid it: If you represent yourself in court, you’re going to run into a lot of unfamiliar legal terminology. This book tries to translate the most common jargon into plain ­English. For quick refer­ence, check the glossary at the back of the book. You can find more plain-language definitions in Nolo’s online legal dictionary, available for free at www.nolo.com.
It's an uphill climb! Particularly, when your adversary has a thorough understanding of the rules of evidence, and procedure. You may get some latitude from the court as a pro se, but you may not, as it is up to the judge. Either way, the better question is why don't you have a lawyer on your side? Is it because some lawyers have not seen enough strength in the facts and law in your case? If that's the case, then you have an even steeper climb as you have a difficult case to prove, let alone that it's against a seasoned "high profile" lawyer. If you haven't consulted with an attorney, please do so before you do anything further as a pro se, and perhaps jeopardize your claim irreparably.
While most litigants are plaintiffs, about ten percent are defendants. The legal challenges facing the clinic’s visitors are varied and diverse: for example, clinic visitors have included an immigrant woman sued by a hospital for payment of her late husband’s medical bills and threatened with having her wages garnished; a woman who sued the police after her home was broken into by police with drawn weapons while her toddler granddaughter was playing on the floor; and a woman who sued her employer for sex discrimination and through mediation received a five-figure settlement.

In May 2001, EDNY began one of the country’s more dramatic pro se reform programs, elevating a magistrate judge to a newly created pro se office focused entirely on overseeing pro se litigation and assigning her broad responsibilities for overseeing pro se litigation.117 These reforms were implemented with the intent to help “facilitate access to the courts” for pro se litigants.118
If you are a judge interested in teaching a lesson to elementary, middle or high school students, please explore Judges in the Classroom. Proven interactive lesson plans are available for download from the website that focus on the law and legal process. You may also sign up as an interested judge to be contacted if teachers from your area request a judge.
However, before such a petition can be filed in the federal court, the petitioner must pursue and exhaust all available state law remedies. This means that if you want to challenge a conviction or a sentence, you must pursue your right of appeal under Idaho law. This may be accomplished in two ways: (1) the direct right of appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court, or (2) by filing a petition for post-conviction relief in the state district court followed by an appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court. Only after you have fully pursued the available state law remedies will you be eligible to pursue a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus.

Abuse (Child, Domestic, Sexual) Agencies & Administration Automobile (DUI, Crimes, Speeding) Automobiles (Accidents, Insurance) Banking (Business, Consumer, Mortgage) Bankruptcy (Business, Consumer) Bars & Restaurants Business Formation & Dissolution Children (Adoption, Custody, Support) Class Actions (Bad Drugs, Products) Commercial Law and Contracts Commercial Real Estate Constitutional Law Construction (Disputes, Liens) Credit (Collections, Rights) Criminal Defense (General/Other) Discrimination/Harassment (Age, Sex) Divorce Eminent Domain or Condemnation Employment Contracts Entertainment & Media Environmental Law/Zoning Regulation Family Law (General/Other) Faulty/Defective Products/Services (Auto, Drug) Financing & Taxes Government (General/Other) Health Care & Insurance House or Condominium Husband & Wife Injuries (Personal, Workers Comp) Injury Accidents (Auto, Wrongful Death) Insurance (Auto, Health, Life, Property) Intentional Injuries (Assault, Bites) Investments (Annuities, Securities, IPOs) Juveniles Landlord/Tenant Malpractice (Medical, Professional) Parents (Elder Law/Care, Medicare, SSI) Patents, Copyrights, Trademarks, etc. Pay and Benefits Personal Crimes Police, Prosecutors and Government Probate & Contested Wills Property Crimes Real Estate/Property (General/Other) Social Security Taxes Transportation (Air, Rail, Sea, Truck) Unfair Competition Unions Visas, Citizenship, Deportation, etc. White Collar Crime Workers' Compensation Wrongful Termination
This surprisingly easy hack is one that can be done anytime, anywhere--and is rarely done enough. People underestimate the power of an erect spine or a rigid stance. Carrying yourself like you are proud to be who you are indirectly gives your brain feedback that you are indeed a lovely human, so that you subsequently positive feelings about yourself. Who knew the body could be such a powerful tool?
But this passage reminds us of the continuing tradition of morning dress for the Solicitor General’s office before the Supreme Court. If it already looked stupid in 1948, it definitely looks stupid now. Adhering to tradition for the mere sake of tradition is small-minded. After Elena Kagan dumped the practice — since wearing what is essentially a tuxedo is less than flattering for a woman — there was some reason to believe it would join powdered wigs in the dustbin of American legal history. No such luck.
As Clerk of Court for the District of Idaho, my deputy clerks and I are willing to assist you with questions regarding the Local Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Rules of Criminal Procedure for the District of Idaho as well as the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Federal Criminal Rules of Procedure. However, by law we cannot answer questions of a legal nature. Do not hesitate to call on us regarding a procedural matter.

But in the course of my experience, it became very apparent that the deck was stacked against me just because I was proceeding pro se – that is, representing myself, without an attorney. It's hard enough for a layman to win in court as it is, but the apparent disdain and discrimination that courts and judges show toward pro se litigants make it that much harder.


113. But note that represented litigants in courts that have implemented these reforms also win cases 8 or 9 percent more frequently than they lose cases, so it’s plausible that the courts that have implemented those reforms are just more plaintiff-friendly (or typically handle cases that favor plaintiffs) or that these differences reflect more noise than signal. See Table 3A.
The Center helps judges and courts advance access to civil justice, especially for poor and low-income individuals, by offering resources on 15 strategies and technical assistance. It works closely with the Conference of Chief Justices, the Conference of State Court Administrators and other national court organizations to implement access-to-justice solutions.
Defense counsel will have to prepare defense witnesses so they respond politely and directly to tedious, often incomprehensible questions from the pro se plaintiff. If a defense witness loses his or her temper, or appears to be condescending to the pro se plaintiff, the jury will certainly find against any testimony given by the defense witness, even if the jury does not necessarily agree with the plaintiff’s view of the case.
Proponents and detractors within the civil Gideon debate disagree on how effective civil Gideon would be in improving case outcomes for pro se litigants. One reason for this is that commentators disagree about how effective Gideon itself has been at improving case outcomes for criminal defendants.50 Many of the reasons commonly given for the failure of Gideon, such as the political difficulty of allocating sufficient resources to defense lawyers and the high bar for claiming ineffective assistance of counsel, would likely apply with equal or greater force in the context of civil Gideon.51
This surprisingly easy hack is one that can be done anytime, anywhere--and is rarely done enough. People underestimate the power of an erect spine or a rigid stance. Carrying yourself like you are proud to be who you are indirectly gives your brain feedback that you are indeed a lovely human, so that you subsequently positive feelings about yourself. Who knew the body could be such a powerful tool?
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.

  If you cannot attend a scheduled court  date (because of hospitalization or illness,  etc.), you may file a motion to postpone the  case. The Pro Se Staff will help you with the  preparation of the  motion and notice. In  addition, telephone your opponent to explain that  you need a continuance. If you and your opponent agree on another date, the Judge will try to  accommodate you. In any event, you or someone for  you should appear in court on the scheduled court date. The Judge will then grant or deny the  continuance.
Patrice, welcome! Looking forward to hearing more about your case inside. Lawyers are good at affect in my experience. That is, they feign certain emotions to prompt or pressure their opponents, and they expect pro se litigants to fall for that more often than other lawyers. I’ve learned to just ignore them and do my work. It’s the judge we need to persuade, not the lawyer, right? It is absolutely up to you how to prosecute your claims, whether all together in one case or separately. Good for you for doing it your way.
3. Many commentators share the same concerns about indigent criminal defendants. However, because criminal defendants are guaranteed access to counsel, they face a somewhat different set of challenges than pro se civil litigants and are not the focus of the analysis of this Comment. For one critical discussion of the treatment of indigent criminal defendants, see generally Stephen B. Bright, Legal Representation for the Poor: Can Society Afford This Much Injustice?, 75 Mo L Rev 683 (2010). But see J. Harvie Wilkinson III, In Defense of American Criminal Justice, 67 Vand L Rev 1099, 1127–29 (2014) (arguing that representation of criminal indigent defendants is generally of high quality).
There are some notable records of pro se litigants winning more than $2,000 as plaintiffs: Robert Kearns, inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper who won more than $10 million from Ford for patent infringement; Dr. Julio Perez (District of Southern New York 10-cv-08278) won approximately $5 million in a federal jury trial from Progenics Pharmaceuticals for wrongful termination as a result of whistleblowing; Reginald and Roxanna Bailey (District of Missouri 08-cv-1456), a married couple, who together won $140,000 from Allstate Insurance in a federal jury trial; George M. Cofield, a pro se janitor, won $30,000 from the City of Atlanta in 1980; and Jonathan Odom, a pro se prisoner, who while still a prisoner, won $19,999 from the State of New York in a jury trial.[42][43][44] Timothy-Allen Albertson, who appeared in pro. per., was awarded $3,500 in 1981 in a judgment by the San Francisco Municipal Court entered against the Universal Life Church for defamation by one of its ministers.[45]
Commentators have seen Turner as a complete rejection of civil Gideon, effectively foreclosing the possibility of an expanded right to counsel in civil litigation, at least for the foreseeable future.44 However, commentators have also seen the holding in Turner—that due process requires trial courts to protect pro se litigants’ rights via procedural safeguards—as a nod toward a new and potentially more fruitful approach to pro se litigation: reforms in trial courts.45

The best way for a lawyer to understand bias against the self-represented litigant is to become one, an experience I recently went through in a civil proceeding. Even before the judge examined my papers or knew what I was seeking (and whether I was on track to achieve it), he expressed deep skepticism that I could competently handle the case myself. After I stood my ground, the judge warned me that I would be held responsible for meticulously complying with every court rule. Lawyers can also learn a lot by coaching a self-represented person through a judicial procedure. Very quickly, most lawyer-coaches come to appreciate how badly the self-represented are treated by court clerks and judges.
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As a general rule, the judges surveyed stated that a pro se litigant must comply with the rules and orders of the court, [and] enjoy no greater rights than those who employ counsel. Although pro se pleadings are viewed with tolerance a pro se litigant, having chosen to represent himself, is held to the same standard of conduct and compliance with court rules, procedures, and orders as are members of the bar. A party’s pro se status does not require us or the trial court to assume he must be led by the hand through every step of the proceeding he initiated.
This Comment presents commentators with a perspective on the volume, types, and typical success rates of pro se litigants in federal district courts. It shows that nonprisoner pro se litigants comprise a meaningful percentage of the federal docket. Moreover, pro se litigants show up in substantial numbers across many different types of litigation, from property cases, to torts cases, to civil rights cases. However, in nearly all of those types of cases, pro se litigants fare at least several times worse than represented litigants; overall, pro se plaintiffs are less than one-tenth as likely to win cases as represented plaintiffs, whereas pro se defendants are only about one-third as likely to win cases as represented defendants.
Put another way, the follow-up question might be, "Even if he can't get the attention of an advocacy lawyer (e.g., the police performed an illegal search, but not enough harm was done to move their needle; or perhaps the department otherwise hasn't attracted negative attention), are there warning signs that a pro se plaintiff can pick up on if he's listening carefully that will keep him out of trouble? Or is there really just too much experience needed to reliably make the right calls on critical decisions, so pro se litigation is inherently perilous?" – feetwet♦ May 28 '15 at 18:57
 C. If defendant is not in court for the trial, an  "ex-parte" (meaning one-sided) judgment  may be entered. If  the judgment is not set aside by the Court (on a motion filed by defendant  within 30 days after the judgment is entered) it is open to collection, through supplementary  proceedings, summarized in  paragraph 18. If a defendant files a motion to vacate the ex-parte judgment within 30 days of entry, it will usually  be granted. To avoid additional court  appearances, the motion to vacate should include a request for immediate trial. Consult the Pro Se  Staff for additional information.

Having said that, lawyers are trained and experienced in the fields of their practice. In litigation, a lawyer will know the rules of procedure, how things are customarily done in the particular court, the substantive laws that apply to the case, and appellate rulings that may be applicable. Lawyers also have the advantage of being able to give their clients an outside look at the case (clients usually are overly confident that they are correct and that they judge/jury will believe everything that they say and nothing that the other party says). And lawyers are usually much more skilled at negotiating settlements and have the benefit of experience to guide them on fair value of the case.
As mentioned, the decision to proceed as a pro se defendant will almost always be more risky than working with a lawyer. If you represent yourself, your success will depend on your own knowledge of the law and whether you can argue your claim in the proper way. At the very least you may wish to request an initial consultation with a criminal lawyer to determine what type of representation best suits your situation. You should not take any chances at all if you are unsure about your own abilities.      
Tables 2E and 2F, the final tables in this Part, examine how win rates for pro se litigants vary across different types of cases. The win ratios in Table 2E compare the probability of a plaintiff winning when both parties are represented to the probability of a plaintiff winning when the plaintiff is a pro se plaintiff but the defendant is represented. In the column “Plaint Rep’d / Plaint Pro Se,” the number 2.0 would mean that plaintiffs win twice as often when both parties are represented as compared to cases in which the plaintiff is pro se. The higher the number, the better represented litigants fare relative to pro se litigants.

 Filing of complaints, appearance,  issuance  of summonses, and procedures for collection, garnishments, citations, attachments, and the like, require the parties to pay fees  and/or other "court cost". The Judge  will generally order the  party who loses to pay the "court costs". The defendant may have to pay plaintiff interest on the unpaid judgment at the statutory rate.
There are several important limitations to using this data. First, the exact date of the survey is unclear and, relatedly, the exact dates that each district court responded that it was employing or not employing these procedures is uncertain. The analysis is conducted using cases filed between 2008 and 2010. Accordingly, if a large number of district courts altered their policies shortly before this survey was conducted or if the survey was conducted substantially before the survey was published, it’s possible that this analysis would undercount the effects of those policies. In either of those scenarios, the full consequences of these reforms might not be seen in the 2008–2010 data sample. However, there is no information suggesting that either possibility is reflected in reality. Courts and commentators have been discussing and attempting to solve the challenges of pro se litigation for decades and implementing reforms for at least a decade; it seems unlikely that they all started implementing these solutions immediately prior to the survey.96
6. If you have a paragraph 18 and 19, then you might want to add a paragraph 20 that might read something like this, "Other commercial facilities similar to the defendant's have made similar modifications, like what we ask here. Defendant could easily make his business accessible but has chosen not to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act." You might also want to add a 20a that reads, "to assist businesses with complying with the ADA, Congress has enacted a tax credit for small businesses, and a tax deduction available to all businesses."
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Trial attorneys who are not mindful of the psychological and sociological elements at play when litigating against pro se parties risk exacerbating an already difficult situation by increasing the likelihood of protracted and unfocused litigation, appealable procedural missteps, and unmanaged expectations. Thus, at the outset of the lawsuit, an attorney facing a pro se opponent should make every effort to determine what is motivating the litigation (e.g., hurt feelings, anger, unmitigated expectations) and, if possible, the reason for the lack of representation. Throughout the pretrial process and during trial, a primary objective of counsel should be to strategically allow the pro se litigant to air his or her grievances in such a way as to limit the scope of triable issues while still being satisfied with his or her day in court.


The potential relevance of selection bias in this analysis should also be addressed. As Part II discusses, selection bias can likely explain a portion of the gap in case outcomes between pro se and represented litigants.110 However, as this Part discusses, the relevant sample for comparison is the difference in case outcomes between pro se litigants in courts that have implemented reforms and courts that have not implemented reforms. Thus, the pro se cases in different district courts are similarly affected by this selection bias. Litigants with weaker cases may be more likely to proceed pro se in EDNY, but they are also more likely to proceed pro se in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) or the Northern District of Illinois. Accordingly, the cases being compared should presumably be similar in average strength, or at least there is no reason to think this selection bias will result in differences in average case strength for pro se litigants across different district courts. These selection bias issues result in a gap in the average strength of cases brought by pro se litigants and represented litigants, but they do not lead to a gap between the average strength of cases brought by pro se litigants in two different district courts.111

Examples Only.  The forms do not try to address or cover all the different types of claims or defenses, or how specific facts might affect a particular claim or defense.  Some of the forms, such as the form for a generic complaint, apply to different types of cases.  Others apply only to specific types of cases.  Be careful to use the form that fits your case and the type of pleading you want to file.  Be careful to change the information the form asks for to fit the facts and circumstances of your case.
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