The flexibility of its search form is one of Lexis nicest features. As an example, you can retrieve court opinions that have the word "malice" within #n words of "defamation". That feature helps filtering out court opinions which mention a term only tangentially. To illustrate my point, an opinion often summarizes that "A sued B for breach of contract, defamation, unjust enrichment, [etc]", yet defamation is not alluded anywhere else in the opinion. That renders that authority useless for your research on defamation case law.

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.
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.
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.
In 1963, the Supreme Court broke from precedent and found the right to counsel to be a “fundamental safeguard[ ] of liberty” guaranteed to all criminal defendants by the Constitution.28 In the landmark case Gideon v Wainwright,29 Clarence Earl Gideon was charged in Florida state court with breaking and entering with intent to commit petty larceny.30 Gideon appeared alone in court and requested a court-appointed attorney to assist his case. The Florida court declined, as Florida did not provide counsel for criminal defendants in noncapital cases.31 After granting certiorari,32 the Supreme Court held that the Due Process Clause requires states to provide counsel in noncapital criminal cases, overturning Betts. The Court focused on the “fundamental” nature of the right, comparing it favorably to rights like freedom of speech and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, and the Court held that the Due Process Clause prohibited states from violating the right.33 This holding, along with its extension to misdemeanors in Argersinger v Hamlin,34 established the modern right to counsel in all criminal cases.35
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]
One judge said, “I tell them they have the same right to represent themselves in court as I have to the handling of my personal plumbing problems, i.e., I don’t . . . they shouldn’t.” Another judge cautioned pro se litigants that “doing your own legal work is like doing your own mechanic work. Most of us could do it if we had the time and the patience. But you need to recognize that if it still doesn’t run, you have to look at who did the work.” Id.
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.
I did in fact include the notice advising the defendant’s atty of the consequences of the failure to answer the request, as stated in the ORCP 45 Rule. The 30 days allotted by 45 B have elapsed and I have received no response at all, either admitting, denying or objecting to the request. I’m preparing the Motion To Determine Sufficiency, and I will follow your counsel by including a copy of the Request For Admissions, even though I filed a copy with the Court, along with proof of service, on the day I served the request to the defendant’s lawyer. If the Judge grants the motion, issues an Order… well, my case is halfway won. And, I won’t have to drag a handfull of witnesses into court, against their will, to testify. Many times I’ve felt overwhelmed by this, ready to fold my hand even though I know the defendant’s lawyer is bluffing, trying to intimidate me into giving up. Thank you very much for your knowledge, your advice, and your encouragement. I’m thinking I may very well prevail afterall.
Table 4 suggests that, like the other pro se reforms that Part III considers, the pro se reforms in EDNY have not been effective in improving case outcomes for pro se litigants. The coefficient on the dummy variable indicating whether the EDNY pro se reforms were instituted is -0.59, and the 95 percent confidence interval suggests that there is some nonzero negative effect when no controls are instituted in the first model in column one.128 The results are similar for the second and third models except that, once all districts are controlled for, the negative impact of the reform is statistically significant. When dummies are introduced corresponding to the year of each case filing, this negative effect disappears and the fourth and fifth models indicate no statistically significant impact from the reform. Including the full set of controls for year and district, the 95 percent confidence interval suggests that the reforms in EDNY had an impact of somewhere between -0.43 percent and 0.51 percent on the win rates for pro se litigants, with a statistically insignificant mean estimated impact of 0.04 percent.129 These results suggest that pro se reforms were not effective at improving win rates for pro se litigants.
If you’re considering unbundled legal services, shop for your attorney with the same care as you would if you were hiring a lawyer to handle your entire case. That is, you need to investigate a lawyer’s qualifications, competence, and diligence. You also have to consider the cost of unbundled services, including the lawyer’s fee and additional expenses, such as fees for paralegals, investigators, and experts.
The judge in my case offered an angry and dismissive "Here we go!" when I argued that he must liberally construe the allegations in my complaint, as the 1972 Supreme Court precedent Haines v. Kerner dictates. He also disregarded the court's own local rules by denying my right to conduct my own voir dire of the prospective jurors, simply because I was proceeding pro se. He berated me in open court for my refusal to retain an attorney, and condescendingly informed me that he didn't think I would prevail at the trial. At various points, including when he urged me to accept the defendant's settlement offer, I felt he was trying to intimidate me simply because I chose to represent myself.
7. At least some commentators have expressed concern that allocating more legal resources to pro se civil litigants might take away from resources needed for indigent criminal defense. See Barton and Bibas, 160 U Pa L Rev at 980–81 (cited in note 5). It is important, however, to recognize that legal resources also may trade off with nonlegal resources, and an analysis accounting for these trade-offs may make the economics of expanded legal resources for pro se litigants look more attractive. Additional money spent on lawyers or pro se assistance might be more economical than it first appears if, for example, additional state spending in an eviction or wrongful termination proceeding saves the government from paying for homeless shelters or welfare assistance at a later date.
One important takeaway from this Comment, related to the limitations described above, is the importance of additional studies into the effectiveness of other reform measures, especially reform measures undertaken in courts other than federal district courts. As previously mentioned, other courts throughout the country have experimented with ways to help pro se litigants.130 Although the particular reforms analyzed here appear to have been ineffective, other reforms undertaken by other courts might achieve better results. With sufficient empirical legwork, successful reforms can be identified, and other courts can learn from those successes. Although courts likely attempt to learn from each other’s practices, without empirical validation of these techniques, there’s a risk that the blind are leading the blind. More empirical studies could help show the way.
1. If you don't know where your federal court is, look under "U.S. Government Offices ‹ U.S. Courts" in the blue or green pages of your phone book. When you find out which district court is yours, add it at the top of your pro se where it reads, "in the United States District Court for the [ ] district of [your state]." Don't worry yet about the Civil Action No. The clerk will give that to you at your district court office.
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.
Some districts of the United States Federal Courts (e.g., the Central District of California) permit pro se litigants to receive documents electronically by an Electronic Filing Account (ECF), but only members of the bar are allowed to file documents electronically.[12][13] Other districts (e.g. the Northern District of Florida) permit "pro se" litigants to file and receive their documents electronically by following the same local requirements as licensed attorneys for PACER NEXT GEN qualifications and approval for electronic use in particular cases; an order of the assigned Judge on a pro se motion showing pro se's qualifications may be required.[14]
×