Nor do you need to be intimidated by the difficulty of the law or legal reasoning. Your trial will probably be concerned with facts, not abstract legal issues. For the most part, you can look up the law you need to know. (See Chapter 23 for information on how to do this.) Legal reasoning is not so different from everyday rational thinking. Forget the silly notion that you have to act or sound like an experienced lawyer to be successful in court. Both lawyers and nonlawyers with extremely varied personal styles can succeed in court. The advice to “be yourself” is as appropriate inside the courtroom as outside.

Unless you are in court regularly, you may not know how a case proceeds from initial filing through trial. Therefore, this book also provides you with background information about what you will see—and what you need to do—when you enter the courtroom where your case will be heard. You will learn where to file your court papers; how to subpoena witnesses (order witnesses to come to court and testify); the functions of a courthouse Clerk’s Office and a courtroom clerk; and the powers and duties of all the personnel who typically carry out courthouse business, including bailiffs, court reporters, interpreters, attorneys, jurors, and judges.
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...
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
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”).
Clerk’s staff and judges in Brooklyn now refer pro se litigants to a new on-site center called the Pro Se Legal Assistance Project. There, a small legal staff from the New York City Bar Justice Center helps clients more effectively pursue their cases. The center assists with strategizing, document drafting and procedural guidance, but does not directly represent litigants in court.

Local Rule 54.3, Award of Attorney Fees, states that "attorney fees will not be treated as routine items of costs. Attorney fees will only be allowed upon an order of a judge of the court after such fact finding process as the judge shall order." Rule 54.3 sets out the requirements for petitioning the court for an award of award fees; and after the petition is filed by the prevailing party, the other party has fourteen days to object to the award.


Pro se means that you are representing yourself in court, without a lawyer. Another term is self-represented litigant. If you represent yourself in a family matter, the court will ask you to attend a Pro Se Education Program. The program helps you understand court procedures and the forms you need to file with the court. Classes are free and open to the public.


Find out what your jurisdiction does. If they don’t have them, it’s worth it to bring your own. If a hearing means anything to you, the money you shell out for a court reporter will pay back in spades. If it’s difficult to pay for a court reporter, try to stretch those hearings out as long as you can. If you’re in a multi-year case, you might have a hearing only 3 times per year anyway. If you find you’re having more and can’t afford it, prioritize them. This also helps you think strategically about your case.

A pro se litigant is an individual who is representing himself in a civil court action. While the law allows nearly anyone to be a pro se litigant, and to appear in court on their own behalf, there are some limitations. For example, a pro se litigant, or self-represented litigant, cannot represent others. This places certain limitations on pro se representation, such as:


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.
As time went on, other factors played a role in spurring the increase of pro se litigants. Shirley M. Pripstein, who practices family law with Greater Hartford Legal Aid, said federal budget cuts in the mid-1990's sapped agencies that provided free legal service to the poor. Legal aid lawyers began to concentrate on the most difficult cases, such as those involving domestic abuse. They didn't have time or resources for poor people involved in more-standard divorce cases.
Accept all complaints, petitions and responses filed, in whatever form, and create user-friendly forms. Among the most obvious of barriers to equal access are rules governing the form of the papers people need to start a lawsuit or defend themselves if they are sued. Complicated pleading rules definitely operate to deny equal access. In fact, a simple plain-English statement of claim (as is used in many small claims courts) or a fill-in-the-blanks, check the boxes type of complaint form used in California courts is all that's needed in most common kinds of cases. Later, the legal and factual issues can be sorted out by a mediator or judge. The Superior Court of Maricopa County has created a number of easy-to-use forms for its Family Court, and by all accounts, people are able to handle them with little help from court personnel.
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.
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.

8. Don't forget to fill out the Pro Se Motion to Commence an Action Without Payment. Each court has a different standard of who can afford to pay, and who can't. People on SSI typically do not have to pay any fees. People who work may be asked to pay as much as $150. It's important to keep this in mind when your group is deciding who will be the plaintiff. The plaintiff should outline exactly why he thinks he should not have to pay fees. Look at the enclosed copy for an example of a person's form who did not have to pay fees.


In September 2017, Judge Richard Posner abruptly resigned from the Seventh Circuit. In subsequent interviews, Posner explained that he resigned in part because of his disagreement with his judicial colleagues over the Seventh Circuit’s treatment of pro se litigants (those litigants who appear before courts without lawyers).1 In particular, Posner thought the court wasn’t “treating the pro se appellants fairly,” didn’t “like the pro se’s,” and generally didn’t “want to do anything with them.”2
Self-Representation.—The Court has held that the Sixth Amendment, in addition to guaranteeing the right to retained or appointed counsel, also guarantees a defendant the right to represent himself. this a right the defendant must adopt knowingly and intelligently; under some circumstances the trial judge may deny the authority to exercise it, as when the defendant simply lacks the competence to make a knowing or intelligent waiver of counsel or when his self-representation is so disruptive of orderly procedures that the judge may curtail it. the essential elements of self-representation were spelled out in McKaskle v. Wiggins…
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.
We’re pro se litigants, and we talk to other pro se litigants all day every day, probably more than any lawyer does. I can tell you no one needs to “pit” pro se’s against lawyers; you guys have that covered. Perhaps if you all would take more seriously your obligation to deliver access to justice, we wouldn’t need to stand in for you. Thanks again for the comment.

However, it is not limited to your employment alone. You can do good things by being of service to others in your everyday life as well. You can volunteer, donate, or simply take the time to perform simple acts of kindness for the people you encounter each day. If you can go to bed each evening knowing you have been kind and helpful, that you’ve worked hard, and did things to make life better for yourself or others, confidence will never be a problem for you.


Commentators writing about pro se litigation over the past twenty years have typically described pro se litigation as a large and growing portion of the federal docket.79 However, when the scope of the inquiry is limited to nonprisoner pro se litigation, this trend does not show up in the AO data. There has been a meaningful upward trend in the total number of pro se cases. But the percent of cases brought by pro se plaintiffs has not changed significantly, as seen in Table 2A, suggesting pro se litigation comprises a relatively stable portion of the federal docket.
Strickland v. Washington (1984) Nix v. Whiteside (1986) Lockhart v. Fretwell (1993) Williams v. Taylor (2000) Glover v. United States (2001) Bell v. Cone (2002) Woodford v. Visciotti (2002) Wiggins v. Smith (2003) Holland v. Jackson (2004) Wright v. Van Patten (2008) Bobby v. Van Hook (2009) Wong v. Belmontes (2009) Porter v. McCollum (2009) Padilla v. Kentucky (2010) Sears v. Upton (2010) Premo v. Moore (2011) Lafler v. Cooper (2012) Buck v. Davis (2017)
Out of that body of information, you develop your proof to support your claim at trial. Those relevant facts that tend to prove your theory of the case and disprove the other sides. The primary problem a pro se litigant faces compared to a lawyer is knowing how to exercise that power, knowing what questions to ask, and knowing what facts are likely to be persuasive on the ultimate issues at trial. It's having the power, but due to lack of experience, not utilizing it effectively that is usually the biggest hurdle for pro se litigants to overcome.
Both of your suggestions are very helpful. It seems that if I were to appeal, it would not be for my upcoming Motion to Dismiss, because I understand that would be an ‘interlocutory’ appeal, and therefore not allowed. I also understand your point about the Judge & OC taking a pro se litigant much more seriously and cutting the nonsense by the very presence of a court reporter. In that respect, it makes a lot of sense in that a reporter may make an appeal unnecessary if the court decides to be reasonable and fair:)
This Comment proceeds as follows. Part I provides an introduction to relevant case law, as well as key perspectives in the academy, on the rights of pro se litigants and procedural safeguards to protect pro se litigants. Part II presents an empirical overview of pro se litigation in federal district courts and contextualizes the typical types and outcomes of pro se litigation within the context of the federal docket. Part III details some of the policies that federal district courts have implemented thus far to improve the results of pro se litigation by comparing pro se outcomes in courts that have implemented those reforms with pro se outcomes in courts that have not implemented those reforms, and it demonstrates that those measures have not impacted case outcomes. Part IV then describes and analyzes the effects of wholesale reforms to the pro se litigation process in the Eastern District of New York (EDNY) by comparing case outcomes for pro se litigants in EDNY with those of neighboring districts before and after the implementation of reforms. Part IV bolsters the findings of Part III by showing that EDNY’s wholesale pro se reform also did not impact the win rates of pro se litigants. Part V discusses some of the implications of the results detailed in Parts III and IV, and the Conclusion summarizes the contribution of this
However, this book cannot serve as a complete guide to all the rules you need to know. For one thing, the exact rule in your court system may be somewhat different from the example we give. In that event, knowing about another similar rule—either a federal rule or another state’s rule—can help you locate the rule in your state. (See Chapter 23 for information on doing your own legal ­research.) Also, each court system has its own procedural rules that, though important, cannot be covered in this book. For example, local court rules set time limits for filing various kinds of documents and page limits on the length of those documents. You will have to learn and comply with these local requirements.

Don't let the Pro Se form scare you. It's easy! All you have to do is just put it in the computer and fill in the bold parts that are in parentheses. If you do not have a computer, then use the "blank" pro se. We have an example copy included for your convenience. Keep the example copy with you at your side as a guideline. Once you have the disk copy in your computer and the example copy in front of you, just follow these suggestions and you're on your way:


Ms. Eldrich and others she knew through the New Haven women's movement vowed to change that. They published a book that taught people how to do their own divorces if the cases were simple, believing that it would empower people to get involved directly in the court system. And because women were often the ones to initiate the divorce, they considered the book a way to empower women particularly, said Diane Polan, one of the authors.
When pro se litigants feel they are being shut out from the process or that their voices are being stifled, these challenges—and the accompanying risks—are amplified. In fact, studies show that notions of fairness heavily influence and guide pro se litigants. Id. at 4. Indeed, “research has repeatedly established that when litigants perceive that a decision-making process is fair, they are more likely to be satisfied with the outcome.” Self-Represented Litigation Network, Handling Cases Involving Self-Represented Litigants: A National Bench Guide for Judges 2–4 (2008).
C. If you are the plaintiff and do not appear on the trial date, the case will be dismissed unless you (or somebody else for you) appears toask the Court  for a continuance and the Judge grants the request (see paragraph 14). If the case is dismissed, you may file a motion within 30 days after the dismissal to reinstate the case and to have an immediate trial. The Pro Se Staff will help you with the preparation of the motion and notice.
With that said, some breaches of procedure by a pro se litigant are important, while others are not. To navigate these inevitable breaches to the benefit of a client, counsel must determine how the court generally views such breaches and take steps to ensure the court understands when the breaches are material (e.g., the breach prejudices a party unfairly). However, even potentially armed with such knowledge, the court may have a “tendency to stretch or ignore the procedural rules in the pro se litigant’s favor.” Id. at 50. While counsel can continually remind the court that the pro se litigant must be held to the same standard as an attorney, “some courts may still regard procedural breaches as relatively unimportant.” Id. Thus, it becomes imperative “to convince the court that the procedural breach is a serious matter.” Id. In other words, counsel must educate the court in both a succinct and compelling way—whether through an oral objection or appropriate written means—that the pro se litigant’s procedural failure is unduly prejudicial to counsel’s client, the court, the administration of justice generally, or some or all of these.
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Not surprisingly, this disparity in legal knowledge and skill on the part of pro se litigants produces a host of unique problems for the courts and the bar in general and, in particular, for trial counsel. Nevertheless, despite the many challenges they bring to the table, pro se litigants are here to stay, and their numbers are steadily growing. According to the National Center for State Courts, the number of pro se litigants in civil cases continues to rise, and there is every reason to believe this trend will continue. https://www.ncsc.org/. In fact, the number of annual non-prisoner pro se filings each year in federal courts alone tops about 25,000 and constitutes a significant section of the federal caseload. Jefri Wood, Pro Se Case Management for Nonprisoner Civil Litigation (Fed. Judicial Ctr. Sept. 28, 2016).
We’re pro se litigants, and we talk to other pro se litigants all day every day, probably more than any lawyer does. I can tell you no one needs to “pit” pro se’s against lawyers; you guys have that covered. Perhaps if you all would take more seriously your obligation to deliver access to justice, we wouldn’t need to stand in for you. Thanks again for the comment.

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Table 3B—providing forms and handbooks as well as individual case assistance, for instance. Because this reform effort is different from those that Part III discusses, it’s hard to directly compare them. But both sets of reforms fit into a similar broad bucket: attempts by courts to improve the pro se litigation process by facilitating simpler and more convenient interactions between pro se litigants and the courts.
Thank you for this answer, especially as it is informed by professional experience! Can you clarify: Is the problem primarily in determining whether to pursue a claim (and, presumably, that bringing unmeritorious claims you risk getting stuck with legal fees and even jail)? Or are you saying that, if an experienced lawyer evaluates the case and says to go ahead, they will also be able to give you enough guidance to keep you out of real trouble as you proceed? If the latter is true, is that guidance available elsewhere, or does it depend too much on the specifics of a case? – feetwet♦ May 28 '15 at 18:41
Oftentimes, self-represented litigants become reactive when there’s a lawyer on the other side. Instead of getting ahead of things or running their own case, they let the lawyer take the lead. They spend so much time responding to discovery requests, summary judgment motions, motions to dismiss, and other filings that they don’t formulate a strategy of their own. They don’t do their own discovery or object to certain requests because they’re swamped and often intimidated. So, they’re always behind and in a constant reactive state. If a wise opponent sees how reactive you are, they can walk you right into an error. So, take control of your case. Never let a lawyer think that he’s in charge of it.
The Connecticut Supreme Court narrowed criminal defendant's right to self representation, stating that "we are free to adopt for mentally ill or mentally incapacitated defendants who wish to represent themselves at trial a competency standard that differs from the standard for determining whether such a defendant is competent to stand trial". A Senior Assistant State's Attorney explained that the new standard essentially allows judges to consider whether the defendants are competent enough to perform the skills needed to defend themselves, including composing questions for voir dire and witnesses.[27][28]
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