However, the few reliable studies conducted thus far tend to suggest that providing access to counsel significantly improves outcomes for civil litigants. Greiner and Pattanayak identified two prior studies that were properly conducted to evaluate the effects of access to counsel. While noting it was premature to draw conclusions, they pointed out that one of those studies found that access to counsel was effective in improving case outcomes, and the other study found it effective in improving case outcomes in one of its two experimental settings.56 A follow-up experiment by Greiner, Pattanayak, and Jonathan Hennessy found that the assistance of counsel led to a significant improvement in litigation outcomes compared to more piecemeal assistance.57 Specifically, they found that, from a sample of litigants facing eviction in a district court, about one-third retained their rental units after receiving unbundled legal assistance—legal aid short of an
63. As an example, pro se reforms could be counterproductive in a streamlined pro se office at a district court that consistently suggests dismissing pro se cases before a full hearing. For a more detailed discussion of entities that have called for civil Gideon rather than pro se trial court reform, and the contexts in which they have done so, see Greiner, Pattanayak, and Hennessy, 126 Harv L Rev at 906–07 (cited in note 47).
109. It is worth noting that these reforms could produce unobservable benefits in a number of ways. For example, as discussed previously, some district courts may be implementing these reforms differently in practice, and it may be the case that a few are successfully implementing the reforms, resulting in significant improvements to case outcomes for those courts but not enough improvement to show up in the overall numbers. Alternately, it may be the case that one particular combination of reforms is especially impactful. There is not enough data to fruitfully study all permutations of reforms. Still, this analysis is revealing with respect to the cumulative effects of these reforms.
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.
It was very nice of Kenn to share all that esoteric knowledge regarding the litigation process. I think most lawyers would only be interested in non disclosure of their dirty tricks, so many thanks to Kenn. I have not made the decision of going pro se, but even if I don't, the book is still worth to read to attain some understanding of what is going on behind the scenes in one's lawsuit.
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.
Courts and commentators appear to believe these reforms are effective. Chief judges and clerks of courts were asked in the FJC Survey about the most effective measures for helping nonprisoner pro se litigants. Tables 1.1 and 1.2, reproduced from the FJC Survey below, show that both clerks’ offices and chief judges at district courts believe measures like those discussed above are effective at improving outcomes for nonprisoner pro se litigants.68
Do I have a basic understanding of the required court documents? Mounds of documents can be very intimidating to a lot of people, legal officials included. Parents considering pro se representation should become familiar with various types of family law documents. Again, become friendly with the court clerk and ask for his or her help identifying the correct forms, where to get them, when they are due, and how they should be submitted.
Utah’s Standards of Professionalism and Civility state that “Lawyers shall adhere to their express promises and agreements, oral or written” (Standard 6). Standard 13 states, “Lawyers shall not file or serve motions, pleadings or other papers at a time calculated to unfairly limit other counsel‘s opportunity to respond, or to take other unfair advantage of an opponent, or in a manner intended to take advantage of another lawyer‘s unavailability.”
Yes, some judges may allow or require a pro se defendant to work with a “standby attorney”. This means that the defendant is free to represent themselves, but a lawyer is available for assistance when necessary. A standby attorney may be present at hearings and at trial to assist with procedural rules and/or argumentation. This type of hybrid representation setup has recently become a popular compromise between traditional representation and pro se representation.
Every agency tends to make its own rules and follow its own unique set of procedures. Many agencies describe their procedures on a website. In addition, an agency will furnish you with its rules as soon as you indicate that you want to file a claim. Be sure to contact the agency, ask for a copy of its rules before initiating a hearing, and follow them. The federal government and every state have an Administrative Procedure Act that provides basic protections in administrative hearings. You should read the applicable law and make sure the agency follows it. You can get information about these laws from a convenient database maintained by Florida State University at www.law.fsu.edu/library/admin.
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.
[p]ro se litigation is difficult for us to handle at least in part because it doesn’t fit into the neat box of our traditional system of litigation, the adversarial method of resolving disputes. That system assumes that the parties know the law, are adept at procedure and the rules of evidence, and can marshal significant facts, present their side of the case to the factfinder thoroughly and lance the arguments of the opponent. But pro se litigants are capable of little if any of that.
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. 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. The Superior Court of New Jersey issued an order prohibiting a litigant from filing new lawsuits. 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. 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. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals wrote that "private individuals have 'a constitutional right of access to the courts', that is, the 'right to sue and defend in the courts'."