We will start with pro se. That's a Latin term meaning on one's own behalf and in a court setting it refers to persons who present their own cases without lawyers or other representatives. Now some people choose to act pro se because they have legal experience or they're otherwise very confident about their ability to convey their claim or their defence without any assistance. Other people may simply wish to avoid paying attorney's fees and the often exorbitant expenses associated with hiring a lawyer.
Traditionally, legal representation was an all or nothing deal. If you wanted to hire a lawyer to represent you in a civil case, the lawyer would carry out all the legal tasks that the case required. If you couldn’t afford to—or didn’t want to—turn your entire case over to a lawyer, your only alternative was no lawyer at all: You would be a pro se litigant, representing yourself and single-handedly completing all legal tasks, such as preparing pleadings and appearing in court.

Consumers have tried to convince courts to set aside arbitration provisions on the grounds that they are unconscionable and deprive them of their day in court. However, these challenges are not usually successful. For example, under the Federal Arbitration Act, arbitration provisions can trump consumers’ rights to file class action lawsuits. (AT&T Mobility LLC v. Conception, 131 S.Ct. 1740 (2011)).

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.
50. For one helpful discussion of how and why the efficacy of Gideon has been doubted, see Donald A. Dripps, Why Gideon Failed: Politics and Feedback Loops in the Reform of Criminal Justice, 70 Wash & Lee L Rev 883, 894–99 (2013). But see Wilkinson, 67 Vand L Rev at 1127–29 (cited in note 3) (arguing that criminal defense lawyers appointed to represent indigent defendants are typically effective).
It is very important that you have all five required elements before you consider filing a case against someone or some entity. After all of these elements are met, you must still follow the procedures set out for the particular court you will file your case with. In Chapter V of this handbook, we will discuss the rules and procedures for filing lawsuits in the United States District Court for the District of Idaho. If your case needs to be filed in any other court, you should contact the clerk's office of that court for information regarding local rules and procedures for filing your particular case.
The Judiciary Act of 1789, one of those laws, states that "in all courts of the United States, the parties may plead and manage their own causes personally." It follows that federal judges must respect the pro se litigants' right to represent themselves. Thus, the Supreme Court and Congress have means to remedy the problems with federal judges who disrespect and ignore the rights of pro se litigants.
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.
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.

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.
61. See, for example, Drew A. Swank, In Defense of Rules and Roles: The Need to Curb Extreme Forms of Pro Se Assistance and Accommodation in Litigation, 54 Am U L Rev 1537, 1583–93 (2005) (arguing that, by playing an active role in the litigation process, a judge becomes an interested party and may become biased—which violates the ideal American judicial role of a “neutral referee”—and may be unfairly advantaged if they are excused for procedural mistakes while represented litigants still bear the costs of procedural mistakes their lawyers may make).
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.
But in the course of my experience, it became very apparent that the deck was stacked against me just because I was proceeding pro se – that is, representing myself, without an attorney. It's hard enough for a layman to win in court as it is, but the apparent disdain and discrimination that courts and judges show toward pro se litigants make it that much harder.
Arbitration is an alternative to trial that is often perceived to be quicker and less costly. In arbitration, a privately agreed-to arbitrator, not a judge, rules on the case. There is no jury, procedures before the hearing are more informal, and the arbitrator is not strictly bound by rules of evidence. Arbitrators generally charge by either the full or half day; you and your adversary split the arbitrator’s fee.
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.
Know What the Law Says! One of the biggest case-losing mistakes is mis-reading statutes. If you don’t know what the law says, you’ll have a hard time getting a judge to agree with you! Statutory language must be interpreted according to well-established “rules of statutory interpretation”. The rules of statutory interpretation are vital to winning […]
Why are the courts so unfriendly to the self-represented? They weren't always that way; in the first 100 years of our history, the courts dealt equally with all comers. But in the late 19th and early 20th century, the courts came to serve the needs and interests of the legal profession, which took control of them and built a monopoly over who can appear before them as advocates.

This surprisingly easy hack is one that can be done anytime, anywhere--and is rarely done enough. People underestimate the power of an erect spine or a rigid stance. Carrying yourself like you are proud to be who you are indirectly gives your brain feedback that you are indeed a lovely human, so that you subsequently positive feelings about yourself. Who knew the body could be such a powerful tool?


This book is designed both to increase your overall understanding of the litigation process and to provide detailed advice about each stage of trial. Unless you are ­already in the midst of trial and need to refer to a particular chapter immediately, begin preparing to represent yourself by read­ing through the book as a whole. As you become familiar with the litigation process, you will understand the significance of procedures and techniques that may initially seem peculiar or unnecessary.
The district chose not to renew Vukadinovich's contract soon after, and he blamed it on age discrimination and retaliation by the former Hammond principal. He also claimed Hanover violated his right to due process. Hanover Superintendent Tom Taylor, who was not in that position at the time of Vukadinovich's firing, could not be reached for comment.

In order to evaluate the impact of EDNY’s pro se reforms, this Comment runs a logistic regression using whether the plaintiff won the case as the independent variable. The dataset for this regression is all cases decided in the four New York district courts between 1998 and 2007 that involved pro se plaintiffs and represented defendants. This dataset includes 578 cases from the Northern District of New York (NDNY), 2,658 cases from EDNY, 3,843 cases from SDNY, and 668 cases from the Western District of New York (WDNY). The key variable of interest is a binary variable that is coded “1” if the case is in EDNY and filed after the implementation of the pro se reforms and “0” otherwise.125 There were 1,408 cases in this dataset from after EDNY implemented the reforms.
If the pro se plaintiff fails to make a jury request, defense counsel should think hard as to whether a jury trial should be requested. Will the pro se plaintiff gain momentum in the eyes of the jury, simply because they are acting on their own behalf? Will defense counsel automatically be seen as part of the “system,” regardless of the merits of the case? Or, will the plaintiff come across as an unreasonable “zealot” who is out to seek revenge against the defendant with an incoherent set of facts and unlikable witnesses?
Closing arguments to the jury set out the facts that each side has presented and the reasons why the jury should find in favor of the client. Time limits are sometimes set by the court for closing arguments, and each side must adhere to the specified time. The plaintiff presents closing argument first and may present rebuttal to defendant’s closing argument. Local Rule 39.1.

Courts have implemented a number of different programs and procedures to assist pro se litigants. For example, the 2011 FJC Survey revealed that twenty-five districts allowed pro se law clerks to directly communicate with pro se litigants about their cases; thirty-five districts allowed pro se litigants to electronically access information about the docket sheet, pleadings, and more through case management/electronic case filing (CM/ECF); nineteen disseminated information about programs for pro se litigants outside the court, such as in public libraries; and ten provided software specifically designed to help pro se litigants prepare their proceedings.66 These types of reforms mirror those suggested by the Supreme Court in Turner:67 for example, providing notice to pro se civil litigants of important issues affecting the case and using forms to solicit relevant information. Likewise, giving access to the docket sheet and pleadings through CM/ECF and allowing communication with a pro se law clerk somewhat fulfills the Supreme Court’s suggestion to increase efforts to provide pro se litigants with notice. The pro se software typically helps simplify filing and participation in civil proceedings, similar to forms that would solicit relevant information.


Some federal courts of appeals allow unrepresented litigants to argue orally (even so nonargument disposition is still possible), and in all courts the percentage of cases in which argument occurs is higher for counseled cases.[24] In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court adopted a rule that all persons arguing orally must be attorneys, although the Supreme Court claims it was simply codifying a "long-standing practice of the court."[25] The last non-attorney to argue orally before the Supreme Court was Sam Sloan in 1978.[25][26]
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