This Part focuses on an extensive set of pro se reforms made in the federal district court in EDNY. Because these reforms were publicly announced around the time of their implementation, this Part conducts a difference-in-differences analysis of these reforms to complement the differences analysis from Part III.116 This analysis strengthens the results in Part III, suggesting that pro se reforms have not impacted case outcomes for pro se litigants.
An individual’s right to represent himself or herself in federal court is expressly codified in 28 U.S.C. § 1654 (2018), which provides: “In all courts of the United States the parties may plead and conduct their own cases . . . therein.” Similarly, many states have codified the rights of pro se litigants in their respective constitutions and statutes. Drew A. Swank, “The Pro Se Phenomenon,” 19 BYU J. Pub. L. 373, 375 (2005). Indeed, according to the Supreme Court, there is “no evidence that the . . . Framers ever doubted the right of self-representation, or imagined that this right might be considered inferior to the right of assistance of counsel.” Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806, 832 (1975).
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
Pro se representation refers to a situation in which a person decides not to be represented by an attorney in a civil or criminal court case. The right of an individual to choose pro se representation dates back to pre-Constitutional times in the U.S. Although individuals have the right to represent themselves during legal actions, there are certain requirements. For example, the individual must have the mental capacity necessary to represent himself, which may be determined by the court, if questioned. Additionally, an individual choosing pro se representation must observe all of the rules of the legal action and the courtroom, just as an attorney would be expected to do.
This notion is particularly crucial when defense counsel files a motion for summary judgment. The court will be less tolerant of a pro se plaintiff’s pleading deficiencies if the plaintiff was made aware of the complexities involved in responding to a summary judgment motion. In fact, the pro se plaintiff will have been alerted that perhaps they should engage counsel at this point in their case, and failure to do so may not serve their best interests.
A fellow advocate member of DAC, our advocacy group, filed her Pro Se in Federal District Court, after waiting and waiting for DOJ to respond. She lives on a low fixed income, and was able to waive the filing fee. Within a week, she received her notification of receipt that her case is now pending in federal court. At the same time she received notification that the inaccessible business was being served the complaint by a federal marshal. Shortly after that, she received a letter from the attorney for the inaccessible business stating that they wanted to settle out of court. Of course!! We settled for full compliance with the ADA.
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).
Try to answer questions on your own. Remember that you are hiring a legal coach, not a full-service lawyer. That means you need to do as much as you can by yourself and only turn to the coach when you are really stuck. By reading this book all the way through and consulting a nearby law library, you can answer many of your questions on your own. And those you cannot answer completely you can often narrow down.
Eighty percent of state criminal defendants cannot afford to pay for a lawyer, and only those who are actually incarcerated are constitutionally entitled to appointed counsel. Many people facing misdemeanor charges can, if convicted, be subjected to significant fines and fees, or face the loss of benefits (including housing) or deportation. Yet, they have no right to an attorney, and those who cannot afford a lawyer will go without one.
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:
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.
One newspaper report from the time suggests Parker did fine, though it was clear he was an amateur. He arrived with a thick pile of notes, wagged his fingers at the justices, and wore striped pants and a cutaway jacket. That was what all lawyers once wore to argue at the court, but it had fallen out of favor for all but government lawyers by the time Parker appeared before the court.
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.
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.
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
Attempts by defense counsel to rationally contend with pro se plaintiffs can be frustrating and emotionally taxing. Many employers and in-house counsel see pro se plaintiffs as less of a legal threat, and have difficulty in understanding why defense counsel simply cannot “make this problem go away” without spending a great deal of billable time on the matter.
From the prison library, Gideon appealed to the United States Supreme Court, stating that, because he was denied counsel, his Sixth Amendment rights had been violated. In its 1963 ruling, the Supreme Court held that representation by counsel, even by defendants who cannot afford to hire an attorney, is a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution. The opinion further stated that, because the Sixth Amendment does not distinguish between capital and non-capital offenses, the services of an attorney must be provided for an impoverished defendant in all criminal cases.
After each side presents testimony and evidence, the jury delivers his charge to the jury, usually in the form of written instructions. Each side may present proposed written instructions to the judge for consideration. After the judge has considered all proposed instructions, the jury is given each instruction which sets forth the jury’s responsibility to decide the facts in light of the applicable rules of law. The jury then returns a verdict granting favor to the plaintiff or defendant and assesses damages to be awarded, if any.
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.
Next, Table 2F compares the probability of a plaintiff winning when both parties are represented to the probability of a plaintiff winning when the plaintiff is represented but the defendant is a pro se defendant. In the column, “Def Rep’d / Def Pro Se,” the number 0.5 would mean that plaintiffs win half as often when both parties are represented as compared to cases in which the defendant is pro se. The lower the number, the better represented litigants fare relative to pro se litigants.88
Court clerks withhold information from non-lawyers that they routinely give to lawyers. If a lawyer's office calls to ask about a particular scheduling procedure, for example, the clerk provides all sorts of answers without thinking twice. But let a self-represented person ask for the same (or even much less) information, and it suddenly becomes legal advice. Many clerks' offices feel compelled to post signs saying, "We don't provide legal advice!" Most often, that means that they are unwilling to help unrepresented people get into court or respond to a lawsuit. (Imagine if IRS clerks refused to answer questions about how to file a tax return.)
6th amendment apparently promises our access. to legal actions.. but so many courts keep the information under lock stock and barrel and it is not fair. I have never had to have an attorney because I have done it myself. The one time I had an attorney she was playing a game and it wasnt my game. bu alterior motives for sure,. She was fired and I moved forward and still won the case.
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
Examples Only. The forms do not try to address or cover all the different types of claims or defenses, or how specific facts might affect a particular claim or defense. Some of the forms, such as the form for a generic complaint, apply to different types of cases. Others apply only to specific types of cases. Be careful to use the form that fits your case and the type of pleading you want to file. Be careful to change the information the form asks for to fit the facts and circumstances of your case.