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.
Unless you are in court regularly, you may not know how a case proceeds from initial filing through trial. Therefore, this book also provides you with background information about what you will see—and what you need to do—when you enter the courtroom where your case will be heard. You will learn where to file your court papers; how to subpoena witnesses (order witnesses to come to court and testify); the functions of a courthouse Clerk’s Office and a courtroom clerk; and the powers and duties of all the personnel who typically carry out courthouse business, including bailiffs, court reporters, interpreters, attorneys, jurors, and judges.
The center’s approach, known as “limited-scope legal assistance,” can fill an important void. Most federal courts devote substantial resources to pro se litigants, such as handbooks and staff time answering process questions, and pro se staff attorneys help judges process cases. But court staff may not give legal advice to litigants, and although private lawyers offer some volunteer assistance, they cannot meet demand.
The center’s approach, known as “limited-scope legal assistance,” can fill an important void. Most federal courts devote substantial resources to pro se litigants, such as handbooks and staff time answering process questions, and pro se staff attorneys help judges process cases. But court staff may not give legal advice to litigants, and although private lawyers offer some volunteer assistance, they cannot meet demand.
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.
Having said that, lawyers are trained and experienced in the fields of their practice. In litigation, a lawyer will know the rules of procedure, how things are customarily done in the particular court, the substantive laws that apply to the case, and appellate rulings that may be applicable. Lawyers also have the advantage of being able to give their clients an outside look at the case (clients usually are overly confident that they are correct and that they judge/jury will believe everything that they say and nothing that the other party says). And lawyers are usually much more skilled at negotiating settlements and have the benefit of experience to guide them on fair value of the case.
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
To process this dataset, first I eliminated all cases filed before January 1, 1998; the analysis in this Comment considers only cases filed after that date. After that, I dropped the following sets of cases: all cases from non-Article III district courts; all cases with a “local question” as the nature of the suit; all cases that are currently still pending and lack a termination date; all cases that have missing values for the case disposition; all observations that have missing values for the nature of the suit; a variety of cases that have a nature of suit variable indicating that the suits are of a peculiar or inconsequential variety;138 certain categories of suits that have the government as a party;139 and cases that are typically filed by prisoners and are considered “prisoner pro se litigation.”140
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.”
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.)
In order to be eligible for lawsuit funding from Legalist, you must have an attorney representing your case. A case where a plaintiff represents themselves is considered pro se representation. We do not fund "pro se" cases. To be considered for legal funding, you will usually need a retainer agreement with the attorney that is on a contingency basis. However, at Legalist, we do offer a free Find an Attorney service, whereby you can find a lawyer for your case.
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!
As time went on, other factors played a role in spurring the increase of pro se litigants. Shirley M. Pripstein, who practices family law with Greater Hartford Legal Aid, said federal budget cuts in the mid-1990's sapped agencies that provided free legal service to the poor. Legal aid lawyers began to concentrate on the most difficult cases, such as those involving domestic abuse. They didn't have time or resources for poor people involved in more-standard divorce cases.
If the jury or the judge awarded costs to the prevailing party, it is necessary to prepare a bill of costs incurred in the suit for the approval of the court. Costs are specified by Local Rule 54.1 as to what is allowable, and only those costs listed as allowable may be recovered by the prevailing party. Within fourteen (14) days after entry of judgment, under which the costs may be claimed, the prevailing party may serve and file a cost bill requesting taxation of costs itemized thereon.
When cases go to trial before a judge, there is no reason to insist on formal procedures or evidence rules. The judge should facilitate each side's presentation as is done in small claims court, rather than sit back and make the parties present their cases under arcane rules that take years to master. This approach would not violate due process, because judges would base their decisions on competent and relevant evidence.
Before I answer the essence of your question, the Oregon Rules of Civil Procedure states and requires that “The request for admissions shall be preceded by the following statement printed in capital letters in a font size at least as large as that in which the request is printed: “FAILURE TO SERVE A WRITTEN ANSWER OR OBJECTION WITHIN THE TIME ALLOWED BY ORCP 45 B WILL RESULT IN ADMISSION OF THE FOLLOWING REQUESTS.” I will presume that you complied with that requirement when you submitted your requests for admissions as the rule states that it “shall” be done in this manner. Sometimes things can sound nit picky but if a party fails to do something that it is required to do and fails to do so, it gives the opposing side ammunition to attack the relief you are requesting that you feel you are entitled to. You are correct, since the opposing side failed to answer your request(s), you now need to file a “Motion to Determine Sufficiency”. You should advise the court in your motion that the opposing party has failed to answer your requests and ask the court to order that each of the matters are admitted. A motion to determine sufficiency is generally geared toward answers that were submitted but possibly not sufficient and parties then move the court to order the party to provide a “sufficient” answer, but since the opposing party failed to provide any answers in your case, you should advise the court of this fact in your motion and that you would like the court to issue an order deeming the matters as admitted. I presume when you say that the opposing party “failed to answer” you mean that the party didn’t answer at all. There is a difference between “failing to answer” and submitting an insufficient answer. Be clear to the court which one it is, if the party failed to answer, so state it, but if the party provided answers that were insufficient, you need to address it in that manner and ask the court to order the opposing party to provide sufficient answers. Be sure to include a copy of the requests for admissions that you served as an exhibit to your motion for the court’s ready reference. Also, under Oregon’s Rule 46A(4) you may apply for an award of expenses incurred in relation to the motion.
8. Don't forget to fill out the Pro Se Motion to Commence an Action Without Payment. Each court has a different standard of who can afford to pay, and who can't. People on SSI typically do not have to pay any fees. People who work may be asked to pay as much as $150. It's important to keep this in mind when your group is deciding who will be the plaintiff. The plaintiff should outline exactly why he thinks he should not have to pay fees. Look at the enclosed copy for an example of a person's form who did not have to pay fees.
The Sixth Amendment guarantees criminal defendants the right to representation by counsel.  In 1975, the Supreme Court held that the structure of the Sixth Amendment necessarily implies that a defendant in a state criminal trial has a constitutional right to proceed without counsel when he voluntarily and intelligently elects to do so. See Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975).  Thus, an unwilling defendant may not be compelled by the State to accept the assistance of a lawyer.  A defendant's right to self-represenatation in federal criminal proceedings is codified in 28 U.S.C. § 1654. 

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.
Out of that body of information, you develop your proof to support your claim at trial. Those relevant facts that tend to prove your theory of the case and disprove the other sides. The primary problem a pro se litigant faces compared to a lawyer is knowing how to exercise that power, knowing what questions to ask, and knowing what facts are likely to be persuasive on the ultimate issues at trial. It's having the power, but due to lack of experience, not utilizing it effectively that is usually the biggest hurdle for pro se litigants to overcome.
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.
Lauren Sudeall Lucas is the Faculty Director of the Center for Access to Justice at the Georgia State University College of Law. She serves on the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants and on the board of directors of the Southern Center for Human Rights. She has received research funding for a study regarding the civil legal needs of indigent criminal defendants from the Charles Koch Foundation.
Local Rule 54.3, Award of Attorney Fees, states that "attorney fees will not be treated as routine items of costs. Attorney fees will only be allowed upon an order of a judge of the court after such fact finding process as the judge shall order." Rule 54.3 sets out the requirements for petitioning the court for an award of award fees; and after the petition is filed by the prevailing party, the other party has fourteen days to object to the award.

According to Utah Judicial Council report of 2006, 80 percent of self-represented people coming to the district court clerk's office seek additional help before coming to the courthouse. About 60 percent used the court's Web site, 19 percent sought help from a friend or relative, 11 percent from the court clerk, and 7 percent went to the library. In the justice courts, 59 percent sought no help.[40]
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)).

With that said, some breaches of procedure by a pro se litigant are important, while others are not. To navigate these inevitable breaches to the benefit of a client, counsel must determine how the court generally views such breaches and take steps to ensure the court understands when the breaches are material (e.g., the breach prejudices a party unfairly). However, even potentially armed with such knowledge, the court may have a “tendency to stretch or ignore the procedural rules in the pro se litigant’s favor.” Id. at 50. While counsel can continually remind the court that the pro se litigant must be held to the same standard as an attorney, “some courts may still regard procedural breaches as relatively unimportant.” Id. Thus, it becomes imperative “to convince the court that the procedural breach is a serious matter.” Id. In other words, counsel must educate the court in both a succinct and compelling way—whether through an oral objection or appropriate written means—that the pro se litigant’s procedural failure is unduly prejudicial to counsel’s client, the court, the administration of justice generally, or some or all of these.
Posner’s resignation is a powerful reminder of the challenges pro se litigants continue to face. His belief that pro se litigants are frequently mistreated in civil litigation and denied a full and fair opportunity to vindicate their claims is neither new nor limited to federal appellate courts.3 Numerous legal commentators have expressed similar concerns.4 Yet, though the belief that pro se litigants are underserved by the legal community is widespread, the full extent of the challenges they face in court is still only partially understood.
Complaints about the performance or behavior of Clerk's Office staff should be made to the Clerk of Court or to one of the judges. Complaints about judges' decisions on procedural matters or the merits of disputes can only be addressed through the regular appellate process. Any person alleging that a judge has engaged in conduct prejudicial to the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the courts, or that a judge is unable to discharge all the duties of the office by reason of mental or physical disability may file a complaint pursuant to the Rules of the Tenth Circuit Judicial Council Governing Complaints of Judicial Misconduct or Disability.
Moreover, the client might not even know what exactly he's being billed for. Here's an example: The attorneys representing my former employer filed a motion to extend the deadline for appellee's brief in the Michigan supreme court. These attorneys alleged that my Application brief requires them to conduct extra research. I have no clue how much they charged the defendant for that maneuver, but they representing him ended up filing a brief (November 6, 2017) which largely consists of a copy/paste of their filings in trial court. Interestingly, their appellee's brief reflects no "extra" research, and they failed to address many of the arguments I developed in my Application for Leave to Appeal.
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.
Strickland v. Washington (1984) Nix v. Whiteside (1986) Lockhart v. Fretwell (1993) Williams v. Taylor (2000) Glover v. United States (2001) Bell v. Cone (2002) Woodford v. Visciotti (2002) Wiggins v. Smith (2003) Holland v. Jackson (2004) Wright v. Van Patten (2008) Bobby v. Van Hook (2009) Wong v. Belmontes (2009) Porter v. McCollum (2009) Padilla v. Kentucky (2010) Sears v. Upton (2010) Premo v. Moore (2011) Lafler v. Cooper (2012) Buck v. Davis (2017)
Nor do you need to be intimidated by the difficulty of the law or legal reasoning. Your trial will probably be concerned with facts, not abstract legal issues. For the most part, you can look up the law you need to know. (See Chapter 23 for information on how to do this.) Legal reasoning is not so different from everyday rational thinking. Forget the silly notion that you have to act or sound like an experienced lawyer to be successful in court. Both lawyers and nonlawyers with extremely varied personal styles can succeed in court. The advice to “be yourself” is as appropriate inside the courtroom as outside.
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.

Not sure whether this applies to every trial court, but the public is also allowed to read (and order copies of) cases in the court. That gives pro se litigants a valuable exposure which is missing from literature regarding litigation. Both of my defamation lawsuits (different defendants) satisfy the prima facie elements of the offenses, but the structure and composition of my first complaint looks very unorthodox. By contrast, my second complaint reflects the exposure I gained in three months by taking note of others' complaints and motions.


Good prep for litigation is hard work, like reading cases and statutes and writing concise, precise and persuasive motions and pleadings. Even then, the “tactics in the courtroom” you mention can still go on. So, mentality can be just as important as hard tangible work. Understand that lawyers want to win too, and they’ll do whatever they think it takes to do so. Cutting the ethical edge is just a day at work for some of them. Your job is to not get up in your feelings about any of that stuff. I know that’s difficult to do, and I struggle with it all the time, but it does not help you win. Do the work, understand your arguments and stay on point.
“Federal cases are difficult for litigants, who are anxious to begin with and understandably confused by what is a complicated legal process. Even when their cases are potentially meritorious, without legal advice it is very easy for litigants to make mistakes that compromise their cases,” said Tarnofsky. “Thanks to the support of the SDNY, the NYLAG Pro Se Clinic is off to a great start.”
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).
5. See generally, for example, Committee on Federal Courts of the New York State Bar Association, Pro Se Litigation in the Second Circuit, 62 St John’s L Rev 571 (1988) (suggesting solutions to combat an exploding pro se docket); Benjamin H. Barton and Stephanos Bibas, Triaging Appointed-Counsel Funding and Pro Se Access to Justice, 160 U Pa L Rev 967 (2012) (arguing that there are more cost-efficient approaches to improving pro se litigation than a constitutional right to counsel in civil cases because of the considerable resources that it would require).
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

For people dealing with a personal injury claim, a landlord-tenant dispute, a small business scrape or any of the dozens of other possible legal muddles, this book points the way through the complex court system. The book also ncludes a chapter dealing with the specifics of handling a divorce, child custody or child support action.Written in plain English, Represent Yourself in Court breaks down the trial process into easy-to-understand steps so that you can act as your own lawyer -- safely and efficiently. Veteran attorneys Bergman and Berman-Barrett tell you what to say, how to say it, even where to stand when you address the judge and jury.Armed with the simple but thorough instructions in Represent Yourself in Court, you can be heard and taken seriously in any courtroom. Readers learn how to: „X file court papers „X handle depositions and interrogatories „X comply with courtroom procedures „X pick a jury „X prepare your evidence and line up witnesses „X present your opening statement and closing argument „X cross-examine hostile witnesses „X understand and apply rules of evidence „X locate, hire and effectively use expert witnesses „X make and respond to your opponent's objections „X get limited help from an attorney on an as-needed basis „X monitor the work of an attorney if you decide to hire one Whether you are a plaintiff or a defendant, this book will help you confidently handle a divorce, personal injury case, landlord/tenant dispute, breach of contract, small business dispute or any other civil lawsuit.

The lack of civility among lawyers is a frequent topic at bar association meetings. Canon 7 of the American Bar Association Model Code states that a “lawyer should represent a client zealously within the bounds of the law.” Many lawyers blame an over-enthusiastic reliance on Canon 7 for what they consider a rising tide of lawyer incivility (or bullying) that characterizes modern litigation. Commonly-cited examples include:
The answer to the last part of your question when you ask that If you fail to file such a motion, can you simply ask the court to declare, at the outset of trial, that the defendant, by failing to answer the admissions request, has in fact admitted certain facts which you no longer must prove at trial. By failing to file the motion as the rules require you would be jeopardizing your right to this relief. At trial the defendant’s lawyer will almost assuredly object by stating to the court that you have waived this argument since you didn’t file the motion per the Oregon Rules of Civil Procedure and in all likelihood the judge would probably agree and sustain the objection. There usually isn’t much, if any, wiggle room when it comes to compliance with the stated rules. Whenever you fail to follow a stated rule you are giving the opposing side’s lawyer ammunition to attack your argument. It would behoove you to file the motion to determine sufficiency and request a ruling deeming the matters as admitted since the defendant failed to answer.
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.
83. Table 2C simply removes cases classified as “Missing/Unknown” or “Both” from Table 2B and recalculates the percentages. All analyses of cases reaching final judgment in this Comment focus on the subset of case dispositions that commonly reach final judgment. Cases dismissed for want of prosecution, that settle, or that otherwise do not typically receive entry of final judgment on resolution are excluded from these analyses. For more discussion of the calculation methodology, see Appendix: AO Data Processing.
2. Most district courts require you to have an original copy, a copy for each defendant, and an extra. Ask your clerk if they require more copies, and don't forget to keep a copy for yourself. 3. When you go to the district court's office, follow the clerk's instruction. They tend to be very helpful, and will usually lead you through the rest of the process. The clerk will give you a civil cover sheet to fill out while you are there. That cover sheet will be attached to your Pro Se. The clerk will help you, if you need assistance.
Understanding the procedures and techniques described here will help you present a persuasive, legally proper case whether you are a plaintiff (meaning that you have filed a lawsuit yourself) or a defendant (meaning that you have been sued). Illustrated with sample forms, pleadings, and courtroom dialogues, the book will take you through the litigation process step by step, from deciding whether you have a valid legal claim or defense to preparing an appeal if you lose.

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
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.
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.
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.
The pro se information on the Court's website is specifically for individuals who are representing themselves in the Eastern District of North Carolina without the assistance of an attorney. It is intended as an informative and practical resource for pro se litigants, and is not a substitute for legal advice from an experienced attorney. The information is procedural in nature and should be read in conjunction with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Local Rules of this Court and the individual practices of the judge assigned to your case. Moreover, the links to other websites are for informational purposes only, and neither the United States District Court Clerk's Office nor any employee of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina is responsible for the accuracy of the information contained in other websites.
Jim Traficant, a former U.S. Representative from Ohio, represented himself in a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act case in 1983, and was acquitted of all charges. Traficant would represent himself again in 2002, this time unsuccessfully, and was sentenced to prison for 8 years for taking bribes, filing false tax returns, and racketeering.[92][93][94]
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