Courts have implemented a number of different programs and procedures to assist pro se litigants. For example, the 2011 FJC Survey revealed that twenty-five districts allowed pro se law clerks to directly communicate with pro se litigants about their cases; thirty-five districts allowed pro se litigants to electronically access information about the docket sheet, pleadings, and more through case management/electronic case filing (CM/ECF); nineteen disseminated information about programs for pro se litigants outside the court, such as in public libraries; and ten provided software specifically designed to help pro se litigants prepare their proceedings.66 These types of reforms mirror those suggested by the Supreme Court in Turner:67 for example, providing notice to pro se civil litigants of important issues affecting the case and using forms to solicit relevant information. Likewise, giving access to the docket sheet and pleadings through CM/ECF and allowing communication with a pro se law clerk somewhat fulfills the Supreme Court’s suggestion to increase efforts to provide pro se litigants with notice. The pro se software typically helps simplify filing and participation in civil proceedings, similar to forms that would solicit relevant information.

It is not the purpose of this chapter to teach the pro se litigant legal research and writing nor is it our goal to sort out the complexities of applying the law, whether it be statutory or case law, to the facts of a particular case. The law prohibits personnel in the Clerk's office from providing information regarding the application of the law to the facts of any case. The intention here is to provide information that is basic to a law library to be used as a guideline.
8. Discovery Initial disclosures, disclosure of expert testimony, notices of depositions, depositions, interrogatories, requests for documents, requests for admission, and answers and responses thereto shall be served upon other counsel and parties but shall NOT be filed with the court unless on order of the court or for use in the proceeding. LR 5.5
Shauna Strickland. Virginia Self-Represented Litigant Study: Summary of SRL-Related Management Reports for General District Court, Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court, and Circuit Court. (December 2017). This report describes case management reports that OES should consider producing on a regular schedule in an effort to better understand cases with self-represented litigants.
Your state’s “Rules of Court.” These are rules that set the procedures and deadlines that the courts in a state must follow. Generally, states have separate sets of rules for different kinds of courts. For example, a state may have one set of rules for its municipal courts (courts that try cases involving limited amounts of money), another for its superior courts (courts that try cases involving higher amounts of money), and still others for its appellate courts (courts that review the decisions of municipal and superior courts). All the rules may, however, be published in a single book. Some states also have separate sets of rules for specialized courts, such as family law courts, which hear cases involving divorce, child custody, and child support; or probate courts, which hear cases involving wills and trusts.
Encourage lawyer coaching. Many self-represented litigants are willing to pay lawyers to coach them through their cases--that is, give them information about the ins and outs of court and the substantive issues--without taking the case over. Yet, few lawyers are willing to enter into this type of relationship because of ethical concerns about participating in a case they don't control, and fear of being held liable for issues that are beyond the scope of the coaching relationship. The organized bar should address these concerns by:
Additional studies that help determine the extent to which differences in access to counsel are responsible for the gaps in case outcomes between pro se and represented litigants, especially across a broader range of types of cases, would also be useful. If differences in access to counsel explain differences in case outcomes, the legal community should be more fearful that those without adequate resources are being deprived of meaningful access to the legal system. Moreover, if communities that lack the means to gain access to counsel lack effective legal recourse, despite sometimes having meritorious claims, then the legal community should also worry that bad actors can gain by depriving those communities of legal rights without facing the deterrent effects of litigation. Concerns about exploitative employers may be heightened if more than 2 percent of pro se plaintiffs have fully meritorious claims but only 2 percent of those plaintiffs can effectively seek relief due to difficulties navigating the legal system. Conversely, if lack of access to counsel does not explain poor case outcomes for pro se litigants, perhaps the legal community should focus on other considerations, such as making pro se litigants feel that they have received a fair chance in court and had their grievances heard, rather than trying to narrow the gaps in case outcomes or provide lawyers for more pro se litigants.
This is similar to the previous point. In a post, What Kind Of Pro Se Litigant Are You?, I discussed five types of pro se litigants. The least effective is one lacking in confidence. Many pro se litigants lose early by simply not showing up for court. Many more lose at the first hearing. With a lawyer on the opposite side and a robed judge on the bench, the average person is bound to feel as if they can’t succeed. Don’t let that feeling rule your actions. Lacking confidence, you might be tempted to ask advice of your opponent’s lawyer. He’s not your friend. Where a judge is concerned, ask for clarification about a ruling, not for advice about your case. In the face of uncertainty and fear, don’t give up. Keep going and learn. Simply getting to the next step, the next hearing, or the next motion is a victory. The longer you stay in, the more confident you’ll be.
Accordingly, this Comment suggests that pro se trial court reform is not the silver bullet that some commentators have hoped for in the quest to remedy the shortcomings of the pro se litigation process. In order to meaningfully improve case outcomes for pro se litigants, the legal community will either need to implement different and potentially more dramatic reforms than those implemented thus far or consider another approach altogether, such as renewed advocacy for “civil Gideon.”12 Alternatively, it is also possible that there is no cost-effective way to improve case outcomes for civil pro se litigants in the context of the modern US legal system. This Comment does not analyze the merits of these options. Instead, it strongly suggests that a different solution is needed to ensure pro se litigants get a full and equal opportunity to have their claims redressed via litigation.
We will start with pro se. That's a Latin term meaning on one's own behalf and in a court setting it refers to persons who present their own cases without lawyers or other representatives. Now some people choose to act pro se because they have legal experience or they're otherwise very confident about their ability to convey their claim or their defence without any assistance. Other people may simply wish to avoid paying attorney's fees and the often exorbitant expenses associated with hiring a lawyer.
Let’s say you go to court and a court reporter is not present. You argue very strong points against an attorney with weak ones. Despite both the law and facts on your side, you lose. Think an appellate court will understand what went wrong and overturn the ruling? Probably not. Appellate courts will find many excuses not to overturn a lower court ruling. Without a court reporter’s transcript, an appellate court will say that the lower court was in the best position to evaluate the arguments made. Then, they’ll let the lower court decision stand. A court reporter, on the other hand, creates an official record of proceedings that can be sent to the appellate court. In the lower court, the simple presence of a court reporter greatly curtails judicial bias and bad behavior from lawyers. With that, you have a better chance of getting a fair hearing. To learn more about the effect of court reporters on judges and lawyers see, A Court Reporter Stops All Foolishness.
A number of recent studies funded by the courts and the ABA have advanced the concept of the multi-door courthouse, where courts would offer potential litigants a menu of possible solutions, many of which would not require a lawyer. This concept assumes courts want to reach out to prospective users and help them resolve their disputes in a manner appropriate to the dispute and the resources of the parties.

Clarence Earl Gideon, a man who could not afford to hire an attorney to represent him, appeared in a Florida court in 1961, after being accused of felony breaking and entering, requesting that the court appoint counsel to represent him. The state court denied his request, stating that Florida state law allowed the appointment of counsel only if the defendant has been accused of a capital offense. Gideon, who was forced to act pro se was convicted of the crime and sentenced to 5 years in prison.
102. The types of cases that typically result in final judgment, and are evaluated here, are cases that are disposed of following judgment on default, consent, motion before trial, jury verdict, directed verdict, court trial, arbitral award, or other resolution. Cases disposed of via transfer or remand or dismissed due to settlement, voluntary dismissal, lack of jurisdiction, or want of prosecution are discarded in this analysis.

In a criminal case, a defendant is entitled to legal counsel by the United States Constitution and one can be provided if indigence is shown on the part of the defendant. However, in a civil case, the plaintiff is not entitled to an attorney. There are organizations that can help obtain counsel in civil matters for nominal fees or even on a volunteer basis. The Idaho State Bar has a referral service that lists attorneys who belong to the Idaho Volunteer Lawyers and they are willing to help indigent parties in several different ways. Legal Aid Services is also available as well as the American Civil Liberties Union. There are also attorneys who would be willing to represent you on a contingent fee basis where the attorney collects a fee only if money is won in the suit.
How does it work? I attended a meeting with a group of advocates from across Pennsylvania, and Steve Gold, the attorney who designed this Pro Se, told us about filing our own lawsuits. Once I learned how to use it, I was ready for action, I couldn't wait to do my first case. My success rate since I began to use the Pro Se form has been 100%: all public accommodations served with papers under the Pro Se method have made their places accessible.
Turner, the most recent Supreme Court ruling on the rights of civil pro se litigants, threw an unexpected twist into this line of cases and provided fodder for both proponents and detractors of the expanded right to counsel for civil litigants. In Turner, all nine justices agreed that the state was not required to provide counsel in a civil contempt hearing even if the contempt order would have resulted in incarceration.41 Nonetheless, a five-justice majority overturned the sentence, holding that the state must “have in place alternative procedures that ensure a fundamentally fair determination of the critical incarceration-related question.”42 The Court highlighted a “set of ‘substitute procedural safeguards’”—for example, notice about critical issues in the case, the use of forms to elicit relevant information, and other potential protections—that could stand in for assistance of counsel and ensure the “‘fundamental fairness’ of the proceeding even where the State does not pay for counsel for an indigent defendant.”43
This handbook was developed to address the needs of the litigant who wishes to file a lawsuit pro se, without the aid of an attorney. However, we feel it is very important that the pro se litigant understand that there are alternatives to representing yourself if you are indigent. Additionally, there are matters that are extremely complex and each matter deserves appropriate representation.
Knowing ahead of time that you may encounter a hostile attitude is the best weapon against it. Read and study this book and other legal resources, many of which are available free online or in your local library. Learn how to prepare and present a persuasive case and follow the proper procedures for the Clerk’s Office and the courtroom. If you believe that court personnel at any level are being rude to you, be courteous and professional in ­return, even as you insist upon fair treatment. By knowing and following court rules and courtroom techniques, you can often earn the respect of the judge and the others who work in the courtroom. As a result, you may well find that they will go out of their way to help you.
Remember this phrase: Litigation Privilege. The phrase has a formal meaning, but in layman’s language it means that lawyers can do just about anything, especially to a self-represented litigant, to protect their clients. They can lie, steal, cheat–and kill if they could get away with it–to win. Lawyers don’t always need tricks to defeat pro se litigants, but they try them anyway. They can scare defendants into paying more than they owe or settling for far less than they deserve. They’ll use a request for admissions to make pro se litigants “admit” to undeserved liability by not answering. Some will even attempt to keep away your court reporter by lying to you or to your court reporting agency. So keep your eyes open when you’ve cornered a lawyer. Chances are, there’s a trick coming, and when it does, don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Stay focused on your case. Reacting in anger by moving for sanctions, writing letters to the judge, reporting lawyer behavior in a hearing, or moving to disqualify a lawyer makes thinking and strategizing difficult. That’s not to say certain issues shouldn’t be addressed. If you must take an issue head-on, like moving for sanctions, do it strategically so you’ll get the most out of it. Otherwise, only address lawyer antics and judicial bias when it hurts your case, not when it hurts your feelings.
No matter how many times you read this book and how carefully you prepare, you will probably feel anxious when you represent yourself in court, especially if your opponent has a lawyer. Perhaps it will help you if you know that you aren’t alone. Many professionals feel anxiety—particularly before a first performance—whether they are lawyers about to begin a trial, teachers about to teach a class, or actors about to perform on stage. So take a deep breath and gather up your courage. As long as you combine your common sense with the principles and techniques described in this book, and are not afraid to ask a court clerk, a law librarian, an attorney, or even the judge for help if you become confused, you should be able to represent yourself competently and effectively.
Chicago: Justice for the “Little Guy”?, 72 Nw U L Rev 947 (1978) (discussing deficiencies of pro se small claims courts). See also Margaret Martin Barry, Accessing Justice: Are Pro Se Clinics a Reasonable Response to the Lack of Pro Bono Legal Services and Should Law School Clinics Conduct Them?, 67 Fordham L Rev 1879, 1926 (1999) (describing the pro se system as one that “sacrifices justice for expediency”).
This is similar to the previous point. In a post, What Kind Of Pro Se Litigant Are You?, I discussed five types of pro se litigants. The least effective is one lacking in confidence. Many pro se litigants lose early by simply not showing up for court. Many more lose at the first hearing. With a lawyer on the opposite side and a robed judge on the bench, the average person is bound to feel as if they can’t succeed. Don’t let that feeling rule your actions. Lacking confidence, you might be tempted to ask advice of your opponent’s lawyer. He’s not your friend. Where a judge is concerned, ask for clarification about a ruling, not for advice about your case. In the face of uncertainty and fear, don’t give up. Keep going and learn. Simply getting to the next step, the next hearing, or the next motion is a victory. The longer you stay in, the more confident you’ll be.
There is good reason to believe, however, that there are not major omitted variable issues in this data. There are three potential omitted variables that are important to address here, but none seems likely to be a confounding factor in this analysis.103 One key possibility is that district courts that have implemented more pro se reforms may differ from other district courts in that they have dockets with more (or fewer) pro se litigants. However, previous analysis suggests that is not the case.104 Another potentially important consideration is whether pro se reform is concentrated in a few district courts. But approximately 90 percent of district courts have implemented at least some services for nonprisoner pro se litigants, so this does not appear to be the case either.105 Finally, it could be the case that district courts typically implement either none or many of these reforms. However, similar numbers of district courts have implemented one, two, three, and four programs and procedures to assist pro se litigants;106 accordingly, there is no apparent all-or-nothing problem either.107 While this Comment does not claim that these are all of the potentially important omitted variables,108 it does seem that district court reform is a widespread practice used in different ways throughout those courts, suggesting that it is ripe for the type of analysis conducted here.109
8. Discovery Initial disclosures, disclosure of expert testimony, notices of depositions, depositions, interrogatories, requests for documents, requests for admission, and answers and responses thereto shall be served upon other counsel and parties but shall NOT be filed with the court unless on order of the court or for use in the proceeding. LR 5.5
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
The United States District Court for the District of Idaho have prepared this handbook specifically for the person who has chosen, for whatever reason, to represent himself/herself as a party to a lawsuit: the pro se litigant. The purpose of this handbook is to provide the pro se litigant with a practical and informative initial resource that will assist in the decision-making process and in the filing of a lawsuit when choosing not to retain the aid of a licensed attorney...
The mission of the United States District and Bankruptcy Courts for the District of Idaho is to provide an impartial and accessible forum for the just, timely, and economical resolution of legal proceedings within the jurisdiction of the courts, so as to preserve judicial independence, protect individual rights and liberties, and promote public trust and confidence.
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]
×