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.
Congratulations! You have just filed your first Pro Se complaint. Feel free to share your new knowledge with as many people as you can, including any materials in this packet. Nothing is copyrighted, and duplication is encouraged. If you need any further assistance, please call the Pa. Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities at (717) 238-0172 voice or (717) 238-3433 TTY.

15. “Right to counsel” in this Comment refers to a litigant’s right to have an attorney provided if the litigant is unable to afford a lawyer. In other contexts, it is sometimes defined more narrowly, such as a right to a lawyer only in the case of criminal defense or a right to a lawyer only if a litigant can afford his or her own lawyer. See generally, Note, The Indigent’s Right to Counsel in Civil Cases, 76 Yale L J 545 (1967).


Many states have amended their court procedures to make litigation less of a challenge for self-represented parties. For example, the New York State Courts’ “eTrack System” allows civil litigants to file court papers electronically, sign up for free reminders about court appearances, and receive e-mail notifications whenever a court updates their case file. New York has also established a website that contains information about legal procedures, a glossary and court forms. Visit www.nycourthelp.gov.
The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of a copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by fines and federal imprisonment. No portion of this course may be published, duplicated, shared, or used by anyone other than the currently registered subscriber.
In the United States District Court for the District of Idaho, all procedures are governed not only by the federal rules of procedure listed above but also by the Local Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Rules of Criminal Procedure. The numbering system of the Local Rules coincides with the numbering system of the federal rules for easy reference. Copies of the federal rules can be found at the Idaho State Law Library, 450 West State Street, Boise, Idaho, or at the Ninth Circuit Law Library located in the Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, 550 West Fort Street, Boise, Idaho.
There is every reason to believe that the number of pro se litigants involved in litigation in federal and state courts will continue to rise in the coming years, especially given the courts’ focus on increasing access to pro se parties. Along with this increase, the challenges facing the judicial system and trial counsel involving unrepresented parties will continue to rise, requiring increasingly careful consideration. However, armed with the best practices, trial counsel can help alleviate some of the challenges both sides of the aisle face.

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.
Despite courts’ and commentators’ optimism about these reforms, there has been no publicly available empirical analysis of the effects of these reforms on case outcomes in pro se litigation thus far. There is some literature discussing the impacts of pro se court reforms in a more general sense,74 but that literature does not focus on the effect on case outcomes. This Comment seeks to fill that gap by providing an initial analysis of how reforms implemented by courts thus far have impacted case outcomes for pro se litigants.75
Tables 1.1 and 1.2 demonstrate that a large proportion of clerks’ offices and chief judges at district courts believe that pro se reform measures are helpful to nonprisoner pro se litigants.71 For example, the majority of clerks’ offices surveyed in the FJC Survey believe that making information and guidance tailored to pro se litigants readily available is one of the most effective measures for helping nonprisoner pro se litigants. The vast majority of responding chief judges believe handbooks and standardized materials are helpful, and about 25 percent of chief judges surveyed believe that personal assistance by the clerk’s office staff is helpful to pro se litigants. Often, these handbooks and standardized materials are extensive. For example, the Northern District of Illinois’s website currently has a thirty-five-page generalized handbook advising pro se litigants72 and specific instructions and forms for how to handle civil rights, employment discrimination, and mortgage foreclosure cases.73

Their rights notwithstanding, pro se litigants create many obstacles for our judicial system as a whole. Indeed, pro se lawsuits are viewed by many as “a type of litigation that’s just riddled with problems on every level.” Lois Bloom, Statement at Pro Se Litigation Panel Discussion, National Workshop for District Judges I (Fed. Judicial Ctr. Mar. 22, 1995). As one commentator has stated,
In addition to dropping the above cases, I undertook a series of steps to consolidate multiple records from certain cases and prevent those cases from being double-counted. To do so, I first created unique identifiers for each case based on the district, office, and docket number of its first filing. I then used those unique identifiers to consolidate multiple records that correspond to the same case into single records. I considered the filing date to be the first date on which the case was filed and the termination date to be the final date on which the case was terminated.
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.

If you struggle with confidence, it can feel like an insurmountable problem. Your lack of confidence doesn’t just impact how you feel, it also impacts how you present yourself to the world, and how you are perceived by others. If you don’t feel confident in yourself, in your abilities, or in your worth, other people aren’t going to view you any differently. This can impact your personal relationships, your status at work, and even the simplest daily interactions.


Unlike in the criminal context, there’s no federal constitutional right to counsel in civil cases. Civil cases can involve a range of critical issues, including housing, public benefits, child custody and domestic violence. And while some civil litigants may be entitled to counsel in certain jurisdictions, in most of these cases, people who cannot afford a lawyer will be forced to go it alone. Doing so may mean that they fail to make it through the process, have their case dismissed or lose what otherwise would have been a winning case.
Resource Guide on Serving Self-Represented Litigants Remotely (SRLN 2016). (July 2016). Self-Represented Litigants Network The Resource Guide provides options for courts and other entities interested in providing services to self-represented litigants using means that are not face-to-face, instead of, or in addition to, in-person alternatives such as walk-in services, workshops, and clinics. 
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Jurisdiction is the authority given a court to hear and decide certain cases. For a court to render a valid judgment, it must have both jurisdiction over the subject matter of the controversy and jurisdiction over the persons or entities involved. The court system is described more fully in Chapter IV of this handbook; however, to file a case in federal court, you must meet at least one of two important criteria:
Tables 1.1 and 1.2 demonstrate that a large proportion of clerks’ offices and chief judges at district courts believe that pro se reform measures are helpful to nonprisoner pro se litigants.71 For example, the majority of clerks’ offices surveyed in the FJC Survey believe that making information and guidance tailored to pro se litigants readily available is one of the most effective measures for helping nonprisoner pro se litigants. The vast majority of responding chief judges believe handbooks and standardized materials are helpful, and about 25 percent of chief judges surveyed believe that personal assistance by the clerk’s office staff is helpful to pro se litigants. Often, these handbooks and standardized materials are extensive. For example, the Northern District of Illinois’s website currently has a thirty-five-page generalized handbook advising pro se litigants72 and specific instructions and forms for how to handle civil rights, employment discrimination, and mortgage foreclosure cases.73
Pro Se One Stop Legal Document Services, LLC is not a substitute for an attorney and we do not offer legal advice. We simply recognize the dilemma placed upon the consumer who cannot afford or chooses not to incur expensive attorney’s fees. Without any assistance in preparing legal documents and forms, many consumers go without taking any legal action or simply go at the legal system lost and alone, which often leads to devastating results. Not all legal matters require an attorney. We offer a low-cost alternative by helping you fill out and file the necessary documents and forms; and teach you how to closely monitor your case. We look forward to serving you!

Paul Bergman is a Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law and a recipient of a University Distinguished Teaching Award. His recent books include Reel Justice: The Courtroom Goes to the Movies (Andrews & McMeel); Trial Advocacy: Inferences, Arguments, Techniques (with Moore and Binder, West Publishing Co.); and Represent Yourself In Court and The Criminal Law Handbook (both with Berman-Barrett, Nolo). He has also published numerous articles in law journals.
As seen in Table 2A, civil nonprisoner pro se litigation appears to comprise a stable proportion of federal district courts’ dockets.78 Averaged over several four-year time periods, the percentage of cases in federal district courts that were filed by pro se plaintiffs has ranged only from 9 to 10 percent. However, that still constitutes an average of more than fifteen thousand federal district court cases each year involving nonprisoner pro se plaintiffs. Similarly, the percentage of cases that have been answered by pro se defendants has hovered around 2 percent.
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
Under New York Rule of Professional Conduct 1.2, as part of getting informed client consent, lawyers must disclose the reasonably foreseeable consequences of limiting the scope of representation. If it’s reasonably foreseeable that during the course of representation, additional legal services may be necessary, limited-scope lawyers must tell clients that they may need to hire separate counsel, which could result in delay, additional expense, and complications.
The American Board of Trial Advocacy (ABOTA), a national group of experienced trial lawyers, adopted the Principles of Civility, Integrity and Professionalism, which are “intended to discourage conduct that demeans, hampers or obstructs our system of justice.” Principle 19 states that attorneys should “never take depositions for the purpose of harassment or to burden an opponent with increased litigation expenses.”

From Figure 1, it’s difficult to tell whether there is a trend in EDNY meaningfully different from the trend seen in other New York district courts. To investigate this further, this Comment runs the logistic regression described above. Table 4 displays the results of that regression. Because the outcome variable is whether a plaintiff wins or loses a particular case, and each of the independent variables in this regression is a binary dummy variable, the coefficients describe the change in the probability of a case outcome when the variable is set to 1 instead of 0. Hence, a coefficient of 0.5 on the variable “EDNY Reform Dummy” would imply that EDNY Reform increased the chances of a pro se plaintiff winning a case by 0.5 percent.
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).
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.
Fill-in-the-blank court forms for most states are available online. When you visit a state court website that has do-it-yourself forms, you may be asked a series of questions about your legal problem. Your answers will automatically generate the appropriate form with instructions on how to complete it and what to do with it once it’s done. To see the forms available on New York’s self-help website, visit www.nycourthelp.gov/diy/index.html.

Following the entry of the jury’s verdict, either side may give notice of its intention to appeal. The judgment is prepared by the prevailing side and presented to the court for entry. These post-trial motions usually set out why the jury’s verdict should be disregarded or why the judgment submitted by the other side should be more in keeping with the jury’s verdict. Local Rule 58.1.
One of the biggest mistakes pro se litigants make is not doing research. Lawyers count on pro se litigants’ ignorance of the law to win cases. The less a pro se litigant knows, the shorter the litigation process will be. A lawyer can buy a $7000 debt for $700 and pay a $100 fee to sue. Thirty or so days later, he wins a default judgment or a one-hearing judgment. He then has the right to collect the full $7000, the $100 court fee, and case-related costs. He’ll have to collect the money himself, but lawyers wouldn’t buy debt if the practice never paid off. Facing a pro se litigant in court pays off for lawyers almost all the time. Whether you’re a plaintiff or a defendant, you don’t want to get knocked out early because of lack of knowledge. Learn the laws relevant to your case. The more you know, the longer you’ll stay and the less chance a lawyer will have a windfall at your expense.

Do I have a basic understanding of how court procedures work? Custody hearings, and court procedures in general, can be quite confusing for first-timers. Parents considering pro se representation usually benefit from attending a couple of court hearings in advance, just to become more familiar with what to expect in court and what proper court etiquette looks like. (And remember: any questions you have about proper court procedures can always be addressed to the court clerk. So seek that person out and develop a friendly rapport with him or her.)


Use small claims court techniques in bench trials. Most states have revamped court rules and procedures to accommodate non-lawyers very well in one place: their small claims courts. Small claims cases are not simple; many are conceptually difficult. (Lawyers have been willing to accommodate the small claims court system because those cases present little or no potential for fees.)
Just as there are certain standards of procedure for filing documents with the Clerk's office, there are certain standards for citing authority when applying the law to the facts of a certain case. The most common source of citation standards is A Uniform System of Citation, Fifteenth Edition, published and distributed by The Harvard Law Review Association, Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is more commonly referred to as "The Bluebook" and sometimes as the "The Harvard Citator." All of the information required for proper citation format can be found in this one text.
Conversely, pro se litigants who make mistakes lose day in and day out, even with minor infractions. This is most often due to lack of knowledge, but judicial bias and lawyer tricks add another layer of peril. Lawyers know how to avoid default judgments, dismissals, and summary judgments. Pro se litigants rarely do. Lawyers skillfully “handle” pro se opposition. Most pro se litigants don’t handle lawyers or their own cases. In the end, most lose and they do so very quickly.
If you’re a law student—or plan to go to law school—this book is a useful and easy-to follow guide to the basics of civil procedure and litigation, from initial pleadings and discovery to appeal. The knowledge of general court procedures and fluency with legal terminology that you will gain from reading this book will help you successfully transition to law school and enhance your understanding of assigned casebook readings.
Now in its second year, the SDNY Legal Clinic for Pro Se Litigants has successfully assisted hundreds of litigants in a range of cases including employment discrimination, civil rights, intellectual property and more. In many instances, cases that do not belong in the SDNY are diverted to another more appropriate venue, such as Family Court or Housing Court – saving litigants time and anxiety and sparing the court’s limited resources.
A number of commentators have trumpeted reforms at the trial court level geared toward assisting pro se litigants as a possible solution.8 These reforms usually aim to give pro se litigants access to resources and information that can help them successfully navigate the legal process, reduce their costs, or provide them with assistance from courts’ offices.9 Examples of reforms that have been implemented include providing pro se litigants with access to electronic filing systems that make it easier to file lawsuits and monitor proceedings, allowing pro se litigants to communicate with law clerks about their claims and proceedings, and publicly disseminating information about resources that may be available to pro se litigants through the court or third parties.10 Critically, these reforms can be implemented by the trial courts and their staff and do not require significant additional contributions from attorneys, clinics, or other legal institutions. Accordingly, these programs can help pro se litigants without diverting legal resources away from other causes, including indigent criminal defense. A large number of federal district courts have already implemented at least some of these procedural reforms aimed at helping pro se litigants.11

Section provides several tables that highlight the frequency of pro se litigants across different types of legal claims and show which specific case types most frequently feature pro se litigants. Despite the fact that roughly 10 percent of federal district court litigation involves a pro se plaintiff, some types of litigation very rarely involve pro se plaintiffs, while other types of cases are brought by pro se plaintiffs much more than 10 percent of the time. The story is similar for pro se defendants, though the variation is less dramatic because pro se defendants comprise only 2 percent of defendants in civil suits in federal district courts. Even in light of this variance, pro se litigants comprise a significant raw number of civil suits in all categories.
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.

43. Id at 447–48 (citations omitted). Note that safeguards, such as additional forms to elicit relevant information or additional notice about critical issues, are potentially similar, though not identical, to reforms such as giving pro se litigants access to an electronic version of the docket or allowing additional communication with a clerk at the court (the reforms analyzed in Part III).
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.
Amendments.15 The Sixth Amendment famously states that, “[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to . . . the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”16 The Supreme Court has clarified the scope of the right to counsel in criminal prosecutions through a series of landmark cases, gradually converting a guaranteed right to provide one’s own counsel into a right to
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
The BIGGEST mistake pro se litigants make is thinking they know more than they do, as a way of overcompensating for lack of confidence. False bravado can lead you into mistakes #2, #3, and #4 on this list and a whole lot more. You don’t bring a court reporter because you don’t feel you need one. You don’t do research because you don’t have time, and you think you know enough. You react to or challenge every lawyer trick because you believe, without any evidence, that it’s the best thing to do. You talk about admiralty law, not because you know anything about it or where it fits into your case, but because you heard someone talk about it. You file the wrong motions in the wrong situations. It’s important to know what you don’t know and act accordingly. Instead of talking about sovereign citizenship, talk about and use civil procedure. Rather than reacting to lawyer antics, judicial bias or a sense of unfairness, focus on your case. Learn it backwards and forwards, and then bring your court reporter. That’s how you win. See Sovereign Citizens Make Pro Se Litigants Look Silly for more about the “problem” with sovereign citizens.
Abuse (Child, Domestic, Sexual) Agencies & Administration Automobile (DUI, Crimes, Speeding) Automobiles (Accidents, Insurance) Banking (Business, Consumer, Mortgage) Bankruptcy (Business, Consumer) Bars & Restaurants Business Formation & Dissolution Children (Adoption, Custody, Support) Class Actions (Bad Drugs, Products) Commercial Law and Contracts Commercial Real Estate Constitutional Law Construction (Disputes, Liens) Credit (Collections, Rights) Criminal Defense (General/Other) Discrimination/Harassment (Age, Sex) Divorce Eminent Domain or Condemnation Employment Contracts Entertainment & Media Environmental Law/Zoning Regulation Family Law (General/Other) Faulty/Defective Products/Services (Auto, Drug) Financing & Taxes Government (General/Other) Health Care & Insurance House or Condominium Husband & Wife Injuries (Personal, Workers Comp) Injury Accidents (Auto, Wrongful Death) Insurance (Auto, Health, Life, Property) Intentional Injuries (Assault, Bites) Investments (Annuities, Securities, IPOs) Juveniles Landlord/Tenant Malpractice (Medical, Professional) Parents (Elder Law/Care, Medicare, SSI) Patents, Copyrights, Trademarks, etc. Pay and Benefits Personal Crimes Police, Prosecutors and Government Probate & Contested Wills Property Crimes Real Estate/Property (General/Other) Social Security Taxes Transportation (Air, Rail, Sea, Truck) Unfair Competition Unions Visas, Citizenship, Deportation, etc. White Collar Crime Workers' Compensation Wrongful Termination

Reaching out to people close to us, even if just for a quick chat, is a great way to remember our vast self-worth. While it's not right to seek validation through others, it is definitely helpful to spend time with those who make us feel loved. People like this include our closest friends, our family, and our significant others. Feeling that you deserve the companies of others is an essential step in developing love for yourself.
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.
Make plain-English information about how to navigate in the court available to the public. All court procedures can be explained in plain English. Nolo Press, other self-help law publishers and the Maricopa County Superior Court have proven that this is so. Unfortunately the courts systematically refuse to inform self-represented litigants about available private-sector publications, apparently on the ground that they don't want to be seen endorsing them. Fair enough. But the courts should then follow the lead of the Maricopa County Superior Court and make plain-English guides available to all.

Courts across the country are increasing the resources available to the surge of pro se litigants attempting to navigate the judicial system. Courts are not only addressing the legal and procedural obstacles facing pro se litigants, but they are also focusing on “sociological [and] psychological aspects of how unrepresented litigants feel about the overall litigation experience.” Id. at 3. Likewise, attorneys, and civil trial lawyers in particular, must be cautious of the challenges and special considerations involving pro se litigants.
96. For a discussion from the early 2000s, see Bloom and Hershkoff, 16 Notre Dame J L, Ethics & Pub Pol at 488–97 (cited in note 74). To the extent that this is a risk, a follow-up study could be conducted by surveying the current practices of district courts and then using a similar method to the one employed in this Comment to check whether differences in current district court practices are impacting more recent outcomes for pro se litigants.
Attorneys often find themselves with emotionally charged adversaries who have little or no understanding of time lines, due dates, discovery requests, or rules of evidence and civil procedure. Attorneys opposing pro se plaintiffs have a particularly difficult job zealously representing their own clients. They are automatically dubbed the “Goliath” by the court and juries, and find themselves pitted against the seemingly defenseless “David” pro se plaintiff.
A trial is defined as "a judicial examination of issues between parties to an action." The parties each get the opportunity to present their side of the case, and the judge and jury (if the trial is a jury trial) are responsible for entering a verdict and judgment based on the evidence and arguments presented. It is the judge's duty to see that only proper evidence and arguments are presented. In a jury trial, he also instructs the jury which will be called on to make decisions regarding those matters at issue and then a judgment is entered based on the verdict reached by the jury. Local Rule 58.1.
Unfortunately, with fees charged by lawyers commonly running in excess of $150 an hour, it may not make economic sense—or even be financially possible—for you to hire a lawyer. Even if you win and are able to collect what the other side owes you, the lawyer’s fees may devour much of your gain. As a result, representing yourself in court or dropping your claim or defense altogether may be your only realistic alternatives.
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
This bias exists in direct contradiction to the Supreme Court's ruling in Faretta v. California. that everyone has the constitutional right to proceed without counsel. The reasoning behind that decision means that the Constitution requires our justice system to be neutral towards the self-represented litigant. That in turn means that the courts must offer a level playing field for the represented and unrepresented alike, consistent with basic principles of fairness.

So even if it seems highly unfair, do not be surprised if you encounter initial hostility from court personnel. In your eyes, you are an individual seeking justice and doing what you have a right to do. But to the people who work in courthouses every day, you may be perceived as someone who will make their jobs more difficult. Instead of helping you, they may even attempt to put obstacles in your path, hoping that you will get discouraged and go away.
A person who is incarcerated or is otherwise in custody pursuant to court order may wish to challenge the fact or duration of his confinement. Such a challenge would be brought as a petition for writ of habeas corpus against the person or entity who holds them in custody, e.g., state or county. If the person can successfully show that a constitutional right was violated, which would have otherwise prevented the incarceration ("fact of incarceration") or the duration of the incarceration the court will grant a writ of habeas corpus.
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.
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.
Importantly, this Comment does not suggest that these reforms have been failures. These reforms may have improved the pro se litigation process by making it feel more humane and easier to understand and by giving litigants a stronger sense that their concerns have been heard. Moreover, these reforms may still ease the burden of pro se litigation on courts by helping courts understand the issues involved more clearly or by moving cases through the judicial system more quickly. The analysis does suggest, however, that district court reforms have been ineffective in improving case outcomes for pro se litigants, and alternative approaches should be considered.
Aside from her family appellate matters, Christa has also been successful in small claims. In 2017 Christa brought a pro se complaint against an auto body repair shop after it made faulty repairs to her vehicle. The shop hired an aggressive attorney, but Christa successfully pushed the case to a settlement for the full amount of her claim. Although Christa cannot and will not offer legal advice, she genuinely engages with her clients, is always happy to lend a listening ear and to share her own pro se experiences. Christa encourages her customers to educate themselves of the system and the laws which she believes results in an empowered and confident pro se litigant.  

The one solution to many of life's worries is simply to laugh them off. If you feel poorly about yourself, rest assured in the knowledge that everyone else does too--and let out a light chuckle about how ridiculous it is that we all worry so much about other's thoughts and opinions. One of the better aspects of growing up and into your own skin is learning how to laugh at yourself when things don't go as planned. The act of developing self-confidence is no different. So, laugh, and see how you'll love yourself just a little bit more with each beautiful, ringing one.


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.
Does my ex have a child custody lawyer? Although the justice system permits parents to represent themselves, we often advise parents to reconsider self-representation if the other parent will be represented by counsel. Parents represented by counsel could be in a more advantageous position. An attorney who understands family law will have specific knowledge that a lay person may lack.
It can be difficult to decide whether to represent yourself in a child custody or child support hearing. Take the time to give careful consideration to each of the factors mentioned above. Additionally, you should speak to a competent attorney with experience in child custody cases in your state. He or she can help you decide whether filing for custody pro se is a good decision, based on the facts of your case and your individual needs.
The EDNY pro se office has two primary functions.119 First, the magistrate judge’s pro se office—comprised of staff attorneys and administrative office employees—proposes initial orders to the assigned judge, including to dismiss or to direct the litigant to amend the complaint, and responds to inquiries from the judge’s offices about the cases. As part of these initial duties, the office gives procedural advice to individuals about filing and litigating their claims by answering questions and making forms and instructions available. Second, the magistrate judge automatically oversees all pro se cases that survive screening, handles pretrial matters, and presides at trial with the parties’ consent.120 These reforms do not exactly mimic those discussed in the FJC Survey and evaluated in the empirical analysis above. However, they do include a number of efforts similar to those evaluated in
76. It is important to note that, although this Comment is limited to analyzing suits filed in federal district courts, a large volume of pro se litigation occurs in state courts. Some specialized courts, such as those focused on domestic relations, have high portions of their dockets devoted to pro se cases. However, many nonspecialized state courts also have a significant volume of pro se cases. Further, many pro se litigants in federal district courts appeal their cases, resulting in substantial pro se litigation in federal appellate courts. For more discussion of pro se litigation throughout the US legal system, see generally, Stephan Landsman, The Growing Challenge of Pro Se Litigation, 13 Lewis & Clark L Rev 439 (2009). For one example of pro se reform undertaken by specific state courts and the effects of those reforms on litigation, see Eovaldi and Meyers, 72 Nw U L Rev at 975–78 (cited in note 4).
If you have a legal dispute, you may well find yourself involved in an arbitration rather than a trial. One reason is that in many states, judges have the power to order you and your adversary to arbitrate certain kinds of disputes. Or you may have signed an agreement that provides for binding arbitration of all disputes arising under the agreement. For example, if you are an investor who believes a brokerage house violated securities laws while handling your account, a condominium owner who has filed suit against your ­condominium association for unreasonably restricting your right to remodel your unit, or a business­person who wants to sue for breach of a written contract, you may have agreed in writing (in the broker’s agreement, the condominium association’s set of rules, or the business contract) to arbitrate all ­disputes.
43. Id at 447–48 (citations omitted). Note that safeguards, such as additional forms to elicit relevant information or additional notice about critical issues, are potentially similar, though not identical, to reforms such as giving pro se litigants access to an electronic version of the docket or allowing additional communication with a clerk at the court (the reforms analyzed in Part III).

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
Now most pro se litigants are at a disadvantage in contested litigation. It may be awkward or inappropriate for them to appear both as counsel and as a witness. They're deprived of the judgment of an independent third party in framing the case, in evaluating how to present the evidence and in forming legal arguments and also in making sure that it is reason rather than emotion that steers how the case is conducted. That's why Judges sometimes warn a party who is proceeding pro se of the old saying that anyone who represents himself in court has a fool for a client and an ass for an attorney.
Let the pro se party’s voice be heard. Individuals representing themselves at trial in civil litigation are often battling hardships on many fronts. Generally, they have found themselves in an unfamiliar and intimidating setting governed by a labyrinth of substantive and procedural rules, along with unwritten local customs and expectations. This maze can be challenging for even the most tested trial attorney. It is particularly daunting to pro se parties. Of course, it is frequently not by choice that pro se parties are in trial without the benefit of legal counsel. Whether they are acting as a plaintiff or a defendant, their status as a pro se party is many times forced by precarious financial situations. Moreover, the types of lawsuits in which pro se litigants are regularly involved—employment, professional malpractice, personal injury, whistleblower cases, and collections, to name a few—are often particularly rife with emotion and typically involve allegations of a sensitive, personal, and sometimes embarrassing nature. Indeed, these cases are often plagued by feelings of anger, resentment, pride, shame, and revenge. To make the situation even more challenging, pro se litigants frequently take the drastic step of representing themselves in civil litigation because they view themselves as victims of a wrong that must be made right, and they do not view as primary considerations the time and costs associated with redressing the wrong.

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]
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