Their rights notwithstanding, pro se litigants create many obstacles for our judicial system as a whole. Indeed, pro se lawsuits are viewed by many as “a type of litigation that’s just riddled with problems on every level.” Lois Bloom, Statement at Pro Se Litigation Panel Discussion, National Workshop for District Judges I (Fed. Judicial Ctr. Mar. 22, 1995). As one commentator has stated,
A number of commentators have trumpeted reforms at the trial court level geared toward assisting pro se litigants as a possible solution.8 These reforms usually aim to give pro se litigants access to resources and information that can help them successfully navigate the legal process, reduce their costs, or provide them with assistance from courts’ offices.9 Examples of reforms that have been implemented include providing pro se litigants with access to electronic filing systems that make it easier to file lawsuits and monitor proceedings, allowing pro se litigants to communicate with law clerks about their claims and proceedings, and publicly disseminating information about resources that may be available to pro se litigants through the court or third parties.10 Critically, these reforms can be implemented by the trial courts and their staff and do not require significant additional contributions from attorneys, clinics, or other legal institutions. Accordingly, these programs can help pro se litigants without diverting legal resources away from other causes, including indigent criminal defense. A large number of federal district courts have already implemented at least some of these procedural reforms aimed at helping pro se litigants.11
Narrow exceptions to this principle have also been suggested by other courts in the United States. For example, according to one district court a state-licensed attorney who is acting as pro se may collect attorney's fees when he represents a class (of which he is a member) in a class action lawsuit,[53] or according to another court represents a law firm of which he is a member.[54] In each of those instances, a non-attorney would be barred from conducting the representation altogether. One district court found that this policy does not prevent a pro se attorney from recovering fees paid for consultations with outside counsel.[55] Pro se who are not state-licensed attorneys cannot bring up a class action lawsuit.[22]
Although case outcomes do not encompass all relevant information in assessing the impact or value of pro se reforms, they are nonetheless an important metric to consider. Lawyers are supposed to help their clients win cases. Accordingly, the viability of pro se reform as a substitute for better access to counsel should hinge in large part on its effectiveness at helping pro se litigants win those cases. Moreover, case outcomes are the typical metric that commentators consider when measuring the value of access to counsel to pro se litigants.101 Hence, when evaluating the tradeoffs of expanding pro se reform against expanding access to counsel, case outcomes are one of the most natural and salient measures.
Family law and bankruptcy matters merit separate chapters for a number of reasons. Each involves specialized hearings that you don’t find in other types of civil cases. Also, judges usually decide these disputes alone, without juries. And litigants frequently represent themselves in both family law and bankruptcy cases. This is especially true in divorce court, where at least one of the parties is self-represented in 80% of cases.
Contingency Fees. When representing people in personal injury cases, lawyers often take a percentage of the final judgment—often one-third, but varying depending on factors such as whether a case settles before trial—as their fee. Because you will try your own case, you will probably not use a contingency fee arrangement. If your coach suggests one, do not agree to give too high a percentage, since you will be doing most of the work.
One part of that questionnaire focused on the procedural steps that clerks’ offices took to assist pro se litigants, either through programs and procedures or efforts to improve access to counsel. The survey asked about eighteen different services, programs, or procedures that at least some district courts have implemented to assist nonprisoner pro se litigants.94 The appendix to that survey describes which of the responding district courts had implemented those policies as of the survey date for fifteen of those eighteen policies.95
Some courts issue orders against self representation in civil cases. A court enjoined a former attorney from suing the new lover of her former attorney.[29] The Superior Court of Bergen New Jersey also issued an order against pro se litigation based on a number of lawsuits that were dismissed and a failure to provide income tax returns in case sanctions might issue.[30] The Superior Court of New Jersey issued an order prohibiting a litigant from filing new lawsuits.[31] The Third Circuit however ruled that a restriction on pro se litigation went too far and that it could not be enforced if a litigant certified that he has new claims that were never before disposed of on the merits.[32] The 10th Circuit ruled that before imposing filing restrictions, a district court must set forth examples of abusive filings and that if the district court did not do so, the filing restrictions must be vacated.[33] The District of Columbia Court of Appeals wrote that "private individuals have 'a constitutional right of access to the courts',[34] that is, the 'right to sue and defend in the courts'."[35]
Know What the Law Says! One of the biggest case-losing mistakes is mis-reading statutes. If you don’t know what the law says, you’ll have a hard time getting a judge to agree with you! Statutory language must be interpreted according to well-established “rules of statutory interpretation”. The rules of statutory interpretation are vital to winning […]
Even common criminal charges like burglary can be complicated because there are many elements to prove. Also, in any criminal trial, there are many procedural rules that must be followed in court, such as how to make objections and how to enter evidence. Procedural rules can be difficult to learn on the spot, especially if the defendant is in the custody of the court.
In one study, researchers identified almost 200 discrete tasks that self-represented litigants must perform in civil cases – from finding the right court to interpreting the law, filing motions, compiling evidence and negotiating a settlement. Some of these tasks require specialized knowledge of the law and of the court system. Almost all require time away from work and caring for children. Many also require the ability to get to the courthouse, to read and to speak English or access a translator.

As seen in Table 2A, civil nonprisoner pro se litigation appears to comprise a stable proportion of federal district courts’ dockets.78 Averaged over several four-year time periods, the percentage of cases in federal district courts that were filed by pro se plaintiffs has ranged only from 9 to 10 percent. However, that still constitutes an average of more than fifteen thousand federal district court cases each year involving nonprisoner pro se plaintiffs. Similarly, the percentage of cases that have been answered by pro se defendants has hovered around 2 percent.

Establish Jurisdiction.  To file a lawsuit in a particular court, you must first establish personal jurisdiction. This means that the particular state in which you are filing has authority over the defendants. Personal jurisdiction for a slander claim is typically appropriate wherever the effect of the slanderous statement is felt. In recent U.S. decisions, "targeting" of the forum is also required in order to bring a defendant into court in a certain jurisdiction. This means that the defendant intentionally aimed the defamatory statement at an audience in a certain state.
What is a Pro Se Complaint? This is, quite simply, a lawsuit that a person files without a lawyer. The ADA Pro Se must be filed in Federal District Court., because the ADA is a Federal law. To find out which US District Court you will be filing your complaint in, look in the phone book blue (or green) pages, under United States Government Offices, "U.S. Courts".
Make sure you follow those instructions! At that point, you will be given so many days to serve the defendant with the court summons. In some districts, the plaintiff has the choice of either delivering the summons himself, a friend deliver it, or having a federal Marshal deliver it. It is most effective to have either a federal Marshal deliver the summons, or a really big guy in a suit. Whoever delivers the summons must make a note of who the summons is delivered to, what the date is, and what time it was delivered. Record this information on the appropriate form that is sent to you with the summons, and take it back to the district court.
2. Mediation: A flexible, non-binding dispute resolution process in which an impartial neutral third party--the mediator--facilitates negotiations among the parties to help them reach settlement. A hallmark of mediation is its capacity to expand traditional settlement discussions and broaden resolution options, often by going beyond the legal issues in controversy. In the District of Idaho, all civil cases except prisoner petitions, Social Security, student loan recovery, Medicare, forfeiture, Bankruptcy appeals, federal tax suits, Federal Tort Claims Act cases in excess of $1 million, cases involving Temporary Restraining Orders, Preliminary Injunctions or other extraordinary injunctive relief will be automatically assigned to mediation. In addition, all Bankruptcy adversary proceedings and contested cases shall be eligible for assignment to mediation. A party will be allowed to “opt out” of the mediation process only upon successfully demonstrating to the Court by motion that “compelling reasons” exist as to why this mediation should not occur or could not possibly be productive. Mediation is governed by General Order #130.
Make sure you follow those instructions! At that point, you will be given so many days to serve the defendant with the court summons. In some districts, the plaintiff has the choice of either delivering the summons himself, a friend deliver it, or having a federal Marshal deliver it. It is most effective to have either a federal Marshal deliver the summons, or a really big guy in a suit. Whoever delivers the summons must make a note of who the summons is delivered to, what the date is, and what time it was delivered. Record this information on the appropriate form that is sent to you with the summons, and take it back to the district court.
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6. The Supreme Court has indicated awareness of this issue. See Neitzke v Williams, 490 US 319, 326 (1989) (noting “the problems in judicial administration caused by the surfeit of meritless in forma pauperis complaints in the federal courts, not the least of which is the possibility that meritorious complaints will receive inadequate attention or be difficult to identify amidst the overwhelming number of meritless complaints”).
We strongly recommend that you prepare a trial notebook. A trial notebook is a series of outlines covering matters such as what you must prove (or, if you are a defendant, disprove); the evidence you will use to prove (or disprove) those matters; the topics you intend to cover on direct and cross-examination; a list of the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of your witnesses; and the ­exhibits you plan to introduce into evidence. The notebook serves as your courtroom manager. You can refer to it to make sure that you do not overlook evidence you planned to offer or an argument you intended to make.
61. See, for example, Drew A. Swank, In Defense of Rules and Roles: The Need to Curb Extreme Forms of Pro Se Assistance and Accommodation in Litigation, 54 Am U L Rev 1537, 1583–93 (2005) (arguing that, by playing an active role in the litigation process, a judge becomes an interested party and may become biased—which violates the ideal American judicial role of a “neutral referee”—and may be unfairly advantaged if they are excused for procedural mistakes while represented litigants still bear the costs of procedural mistakes their lawyers may make).
116. A difference-in-differences analysis is an analysis that looks at two samples (here, EDNY pro se litigant outcomes and non-EDNY pro se litigant outcomes) and compares the difference in the average result between those two groups before and after a treatment. This analysis compares the difference between EDNY and non-EDNY pro se litigant outcomes before the pro se reform with the difference between EDNY and non-EDNY pro se litigant outcomes after the pro se reform. Non-EDNY in this analysis refers to all New York federal district courts other than EDNY: the Northern District of New York, SDNY, and Western District of New York. The treatment effect is the difference between these two differences—that is, the difference in differences. For more discussion of this methodology, see generally Marianne Bertrand, Esther Duflo, and Sendhil Mullainathan, How Much Should We Trust Differences-in-Differences Estimates?, 119 Q J Econ 249 (2004).
After opening statements are given, testimony of witnesses and documents are presented by each side, plaintiff side to begin. Local Rule 43.1. Cross-examination is conducted by the other side after the initial examination. If after a party has cross-examined a witness, the other side has the opportunity to redirect examination in order to requisition the witness on the points covered by the cross-examination.
In the years since this book first appeared, the number of people representing themselves in civil court cases has continued to grow. A recent collection of statistics by the National Center for State Courts shows that the vast majority of family law cases involve at least one, and often two, self-represented parties. In California, over 4.3 million people using the courts are self-represented; in New Hampshire, 85% of civil cases in the trial court involve at least one self-represented party. Many courts report an upsurge in self-representation. (Memorandum on Pro Se Statistics, 9/25/2006, National Center for State Courts, available at www.ncsconline.org/WC/publications/memos/prosestatsmemo.htm.) Other research indicates that at least one party was self-represented in more than two-thirds of domestic relations cases in California and in nearly 90% of divorce cases in Phoenix, Arizona, and Washington, DC. (See Jona Goldschmidt, et al., Meeting the Challenge of Pro Se Litigation: A Report and Guidebook for Judges and Court Managers, A Consumer Based Approach (1998).) These studies are substantiated by many civil court administrators and judges, who estimate that the number of self-represented
Sara J. Berman is the Director of Academic and Bar Success Programs at the nonprofit AccessLex Institute Center for Legal Education Excellence, an organization committed to understanding the barriers that impede access to law school for historically underrepresented groups and improving access to law school for all; identifying actionable strategies and public policies to increase law school affordability; and strengthening the value of legal education. Berman is the author of several bar exam and legal education books and articles, including Pass the Bar Exam: A Practical Guide to Achieving Academic & Professional Goals and Bar Exam MPT Preparation & Experiential Learning for Law Students: Interactive Performance Test Training. Before joining AccessLex, Berman worked for more than two decades in various law schools.  She has more than 15 years of experience in distance learning in legal education, and co-authored Represent Yourself in Court: How to Prepare and Try a Winning Case and The Criminal Law Handbook: Know Your Rights, Survive the System, plain English primers on the civil and criminal justice systems. More on Berman’s publications at https://ssrn.com/author=2846291 and on AccessLex publications at https://www.ssrn.com/link/AccessLex-Institute-RES.html
Books containing all of these rules should be available in a public law library. You may also want to purchase these books separately from the Clerk’s Office in the courthouse in which your case is filed, or from a legal bookstore, so that you can have them close at hand for reference as you read through this book and go to court. You can also find most court rules on the Internet. The information in Chapter 23 will help you start your search.
A tort is defined as a "private or civil wrong or injury." It is distinguished from criminal law because it is an injury against an individual and not the state (city, county, or state government). If a person ran a stoplight and hit your car, the state would ticket the driver for running the stoplight but it would not be able to sue the driver for the injuries received by the victim of the other car. That is considered a private wrong or injury and it is the right of the victim to file a civil suit against the driver seeking damages for the injuries received.
50. For one helpful discussion of how and why the efficacy of Gideon has been doubted, see Donald A. Dripps, Why Gideon Failed: Politics and Feedback Loops in the Reform of Criminal Justice, 70 Wash & Lee L Rev 883, 894–99 (2013). But see Wilkinson, 67 Vand L Rev at 1127–29 (cited in note 3) (arguing that criminal defense lawyers appointed to represent indigent defendants are typically effective).
This Comment furthers the legal community’s understanding of issues in pro se litigation by conducting an empirical analysis of pro se reforms in federal district courts. By comparing case outcomes for pro se litigants in district courts that have implemented these types of reforms with the outcomes of similarly situated pro se litigants in courts that have not implemented any reforms, this Comment provides an initial assessment of the impact of those reforms. The analysis reveals that thus far, a wide range of reforms undertaken by federal district courts have not significantly impacted case outcomes for pro se litigants. This analysis conflicts with the intuitions of the Supreme Court, commentators, and judges and clerks of district court offices, who have indicated their belief that these reforms are effective.
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
In the early 1970's, it was virtually unheard of to go into court without a lawyer. Sarah D. Eldrich, a divorce lawyer in New Haven, was divorced in 1972 when she was a 21-year-old student at Quinnipiac University. Ms. Eldrich, who worked at the New Haven Legal Assistance Association while she was attending college, knew how to draft the papers for a divorce, but said she was discouraged from doing the divorce herself. The experience, she recalled in a recent interview, made her feel powerless.

One part of that questionnaire focused on the procedural steps that clerks’ offices took to assist pro se litigants, either through programs and procedures or efforts to improve access to counsel. The survey asked about eighteen different services, programs, or procedures that at least some district courts have implemented to assist nonprisoner pro se litigants.94 The appendix to that survey describes which of the responding district courts had implemented those policies as of the survey date for fifteen of those eighteen policies.95


Consolidate questions. Hourly charges are usually divided into parts of an hour, so you may be charged for more time than you actually spend. For example, if your legal coach bills in 15-minute intervals and you only talk for five minutes, you may still be charged for the whole 15. If that is your coach’s practice, it pays to gather your questions and ask them all at once, rather than calling every time you have a question.
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 person who is incarcerated or is otherwise in custody pursuant to court order may wish to challenge the fact or duration of his confinement. Such a challenge would be brought as a petition for writ of habeas corpus against the person or entity who holds them in custody, e.g., state or county. If the person can successfully show that a constitutional right was violated, which would have otherwise prevented the incarceration ("fact of incarceration") or the duration of the incarceration the court will grant a writ of habeas corpus.

Consolidate questions. Hourly charges are usually divided into parts of an hour, so you may be charged for more time than you actually spend. For example, if your legal coach bills in 15-minute intervals and you only talk for five minutes, you may still be charged for the whole 15. If that is your coach’s practice, it pays to gather your questions and ask them all at once, rather than calling every time you have a question.
Paul Bergman is a Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law and a recipient of two University Distinguished Teaching Awards. His books include Nolo’s Deposition Handbook (with Moore, Nolo); Reel Justice: The Courtroom Goes to the Movies (Andrews & McMeel); Trial Advocacy: Inferences, Arguments, Techniques (with Moore and Binder, West Publishing Co.); Trial Advocacy in a Nutshell (West Publishing Co.); Represent Yourself in Court: How to Prepare & Try a Winning Case (with Berman, Nolo); Depositions in a Nutshell (with Moore, Binder, and Light, West Publishing); Lawyers as Counselors: A Client-Centered Approach (with Binder, Tremblay, and Weinstein, West Publishing); and Cracking the Case Method (Vandeplas Publishing). He has also published numerous articles in law journals.
Privacy Requirements.  Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 5.2 addresses the privacy and security concerns over public access to electronic court files.  Under this rule, papers filed with the court should not contain anyone’s full social-security number or full birth date; the name of a person known to be a minor; or a complete financial-account number.  A filing may include only the last four digits of a social-security number and taxpayer identification number; the year of someone’s birth; a minor’s initials; and the last four digits of a financial-account number.
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