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.

For example, the Federal Rules of Evidence (often referred to as the FRE) govern the introduction of evidence in federal court trials. But about 40 states also use the FRE in their state court trials. And even those states that have not formally adopted the FRE have evidence rules that are quite similar to them. This means that, for the most part, trials are conducted in the same way nationwide. Another set of federal rules, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (or FRCP) apply similarly to govern procedural (rather than evidentiary) rules. Because of this basic uniformity, the book frequently refers you to ­specific rules that, even if they differ somewhat from your state’s rules, should help you understand the basic procedures that will apply to your case.
6. If you have a paragraph 18 and 19, then you might want to add a paragraph 20 that might read something like this, "Other commercial facilities similar to the defendant's have made similar modifications, like what we ask here. Defendant could easily make his business accessible but has chosen not to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act." You might also want to add a 20a that reads, "to assist businesses with complying with the ADA, Congress has enacted a tax credit for small businesses, and a tax deduction available to all businesses."
Patrice, welcome! Looking forward to hearing more about your case inside. Lawyers are good at affect in my experience. That is, they feign certain emotions to prompt or pressure their opponents, and they expect pro se litigants to fall for that more often than other lawyers. I’ve learned to just ignore them and do my work. It’s the judge we need to persuade, not the lawyer, right? It is absolutely up to you how to prosecute your claims, whether all together in one case or separately. Good for you for doing it your way.
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.

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.
Patrice, welcome! Looking forward to hearing more about your case inside. Lawyers are good at affect in my experience. That is, they feign certain emotions to prompt or pressure their opponents, and they expect pro se litigants to fall for that more often than other lawyers. I’ve learned to just ignore them and do my work. It’s the judge we need to persuade, not the lawyer, right? It is absolutely up to you how to prosecute your claims, whether all together in one case or separately. Good for you for doing it your way.
Just a year after Ms. Eldrich ended her marriage, divorce in Connecticut changed dramatically, opening the way to more pro se representation. In 1973, the Legislature passed a law allowing no-fault divorces, so a married couple who had decided to break up did not have to prove it was someone's fault. That eliminated the sometimes difficult process of showing that one party had committed adultery or had been intolerably cruel, which were two of the reasons spouses could give for seeking a divorce.
A number of recent studies funded by the courts and the ABA have advanced the concept of the multi-door courthouse, where courts would offer potential litigants a menu of possible solutions, many of which would not require a lawyer. This concept assumes courts want to reach out to prospective users and help them resolve their disputes in a manner appropriate to the dispute and the resources of the parties.
The next three chapters of this handbook provide information that you should consider before filing your own lawsuit such as whether or not you have a case you can win, the importance of legal counsel and the alternatives, and the structure of the federal court system. If after considering this information, you feel you have a case that should be filed in federal court and you wish to represent yourself, additional information has been provided to assist you in filing your case and utilizing the appropriate rules of procedure for the United States District Court for the District of Idaho.
Can I afford a private child custody attorney? Each parent is aware of his/her own, unique financial position and resources. Some parents borrow money for an attorney, while others may possess significant savings. Divorced parents are often fortunate enough to have legal expenses covered by a former spouse, written directly into a divorce decree. If parents are of modest means, pro se representation might be an appropriate alternative to hiring a private child custody lawyer, but cost should not be the only consideration.
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)
Shauna Strickland. Virginia Self-Represented Litigant Study: Summary of SRL-Related Management Reports for General District Court, Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court, and Circuit Court. (December 2017). This report describes case management reports that OES should consider producing on a regular schedule in an effort to better understand cases with self-represented litigants.
The majority of criminal defendants who choose to go pro se base their decision on a lack of trust in the judicial system. Many defendants are hesitant to work with a court-appointed defense attorney because they do not trust that the attorney will render good service. In other words, they feel that they can do a better job themselves. Some pro se defendants feel that no person knows the details of their situation better than they do.
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 civil case, which is the only type of case you can commence in federal court, is different from a criminal case, which can only be commenced by government officials. In a civil case, you do not have a constitutional right to appointed counsel. Therefore, if you start a civil case pro se, you should be prepared to pursue it to completion on your own.


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.
Ms. Eldrich and others she knew through the New Haven women's movement vowed to change that. They published a book that taught people how to do their own divorces if the cases were simple, believing that it would empower people to get involved directly in the court system. And because women were often the ones to initiate the divorce, they considered the book a way to empower women particularly, said Diane Polan, one of the authors.
One part of that questionnaire focused on the procedural steps that clerks’ offices took to assist pro se litigants, either through programs and procedures or efforts to improve access to counsel. The survey asked about eighteen different services, programs, or procedures that at least some district courts have implemented to assist nonprisoner pro se litigants.94 The appendix to that survey describes which of the responding district courts had implemented those policies as of the survey date for fifteen of those eighteen policies.95
No Guidance on Timing or Parties.  The forms do not give any guidance on when certain kinds of pleadings or claims or defenses have to be raised, or who has to be sued.  Some pleadings, claims, or defenses have to be raised at a certain point in the case or within a certain period of time.  And there are limits on who can be named as a party in a case and when they have to be added.  Lawyers and people representing themselves must know the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the caselaw setting out these and other requirements.  The current Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are available, for free, at www.uscourts.gov.
×