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.
The exclusion of prisoner pro se litigation is a potentially consequential choice. Commentators sometimes discuss trends in prisoner and nonprisoner civil pro se litigation without differentiating between the two classes, but there is no reason to assume that trends in prisoner pro se litigation mirror trends in nonprisoner pro se litigation.80 Prisoner pro se litigation may be an interesting topic of its own. However, most prisoner litigation consists of several unique case types that are pseudocriminal in nature, particularly habeas petitions, that are not necessarily similar to other types of civil pro se litigation. Accordingly, the scope of this Comment excludes cases that are predominantly brought by prisoners in order to focus more narrowly on the dynamics of civil nonprisoner pro se litigation in federal district courts.81
Additionally, there is no obvious way to test the consistency or validity of these survey results. If different courts implemented substantively different reforms but mapped them to the same policies when answering the questionnaire, these results may underestimate the effectiveness of certain policies. For example, if one district court allowed pro se litigants to conduct extremely formal and limited communications with pro se clerks, while another district court allowed pro se litigants who showed up at the court to receive extensive counseling from pro se clerks, both district courts may report that they provided “direct communications with pro se clerks.”99 These two policies may be sufficiently distinct that they have very different influences on the outcomes of pro se litigation. The available survey data does not provide a reliable way to tease out these types of distinctions, and they are grouped together in the analysis below. Similarly, if overburdened district courts were simply sloppy in their survey responses, this methodology may in turn underestimate the results of these policies.
There is limited Supreme Court jurisprudence on trial-court reforms for civil pro se litigants. However, an extensive body of case law establishes the right to counsel for indigent criminal litigants and then denies that right to civil litigants who cannot afford counsel. Moreover, in one recent case, Turner v Rogers,13 the Supreme Court established a limited right to procedural protections for civil pro se litigants, creating the potential for new jurisprudence establishing new rights for civil pro se litigants.14
There are two court systems in the United States: the state courts and the federal courts. The state courts typically hear matters relating to civil, criminal, domestic (divorce and child custody), probate, and property in accordance with the laws of each state. Matters typically heard by the federal courts involve violation of federal laws; admiralty and maritime matters; United States patent, trademark, and copyright matters; bankruptcy proceedings; proceedings against ambassadors, consuls, and ministers. These matters usually fall into two main categories: (1) federal question cases -- cases which arise under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States; and (2) diversity cases -- civil matters arising between parties who are citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.
From October 2016 through September 2017 clinic staff members assisted 874 individuals in a variety of ways. In most cases, staff and volunteers provide advice and counsel, including providing referrals to other services or pro bono attorneys. In some cases, clinic staff members provide more extensive assistance, such as helping litigants draft court filings.
While some (or several) attorneys are honest, there's a simple reason why no lawyer will defend your position as sternly you would: An attorney won't risk his/her cushy or soft-spoken relation with the judges in that court, lest the attorney finds himself (herself) forced to move his practice to another county/district/jurisdiction. In that sense, your cause is compromised by the lawyer without you knowing it.
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.
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.
Courts are public institutions belonging to the people, and you have the right to represent yourself there. However, courts are also bureaucratic institutions with very heavy caseloads. Historically, filing clerks, courtroom clerks, court reporters, and even judges have usually preferred to deal with lawyers rather than with people who represent themselves. (When you represent yourself, you may find yourself referred to as a “pro per” or “pro se” litigant, Latin abbreviations favored by judges and lawyers.) Although the increasing number of people representing themselves is beginning to change these attitudes in some places, many court personnel believe (often mistakenly) that they can do their work more quickly and easily when they work with lawyers than when they work with people who are representing themselves.
We have written another book that can help if you or someone you know has been arrested or accused of a crime and is facing possible criminal charges. It’s called The Criminal Law Handbook: Know Your Rights, Survive the System (Nolo). While that handbook does not recommend self-representation in criminal cases, it can be a tremendous resource at a time you need solid, trustworthy information.
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.
125. Although the reform was implemented in May 2001, this Comment codes this variable to 1 only for all cases filed in 2002 and after. The theoretical reason for this is to give the reform the benefit of the doubt; it may have had an effect, but that effect may appear only after it was integrated into EDNY’s normal pro se proceedings. In practice, the regression results do not meaningfully change if this variable is set to “1” for all cases filed in May 2001 and after.
2. Motion for Instructed or Directed Verdict: This motion is usually made by the defendant at the close of evidence presented by the plaintiff’s side and is based on the premise that the plaintiff has failed to prove his case. If it is granted, the court instructs the jury to render a verdict for the defendant and against the plaintiff, and the trial is concluded in the defendant’s favor. If the court denies the motion, the trial continues with presentation of the defendant’s side.
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.
I truly do appreciate the work you do and the information you provide as this is a great service to "all" citizens. Certainly more "legal information" is needed to increase "legal literacy" in the world today. I am amazed that you are able to respond so quickly given your "one man" operation. The "legacy" you are leaving by promoting "legal education" is important to this generation as well as future generations and I commend you for your efforts to impart of your knowledge. ... Leonard S.
80. There are many factors affecting trends in prisoner pro se litigation that likely do not impact nonprisoner pro se litigation, such as the growth of the US prison population and concerns about the particular conditions and resources available to prisoners. For one discussion of prisoner pro se litigation, see generally Michael W. Martin, Foreword: Root Causes of the Pro Se Prisoner Litigation Crisis, 80 Fordham L Rev 1219 (2011).
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).
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. 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.