In May 2001, EDNY began one of the country’s more dramatic pro se reform programs, elevating a magistrate judge to a newly created pro se office focused entirely on overseeing pro se litigation and assigning her broad responsibilities for overseeing pro se litigation.117 These reforms were implemented with the intent to help “facilitate access to the courts” for pro se litigants.118
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.
Whatever your case is about, I can't emphasize enough for you to take a morning off from work to go watch some cases in court. You'll eliminate some fear of the unknown, you'll start to see that attorneys go through a similar set of procedures that you are just as capable of performing yourself, and you'll get a feel for how to talk to the judge and those who might be in the same room as you.
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.
If you wish to start a civil action in federal court, but do not have an attorney to represent you, you may file your case yourself. This is called "proceeding pro se" which is a Latin term meaning “for yourself.” You will then be called a "pro se litigant." You need not worry if you have had little or no experience with the courts before. You are, however, expected to follow/abide by the rules that govern the practice of law in the Federal Court. Pro Se litigants should be familiar with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Rules of this court. Please visit the Rules section of this web site to review the rules in detail.
Whether you are a party to a lawsuit, a person representing yourself in a lawsuit, or an attorney representing a party in a lawsuit, you are subject to the rules of procedure for any court in which your case is filed. The federal courts are governed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Fed. R. Civ. P.) and the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (Fed. R. Cr. P.) as well as other rules of procedure regarding other areas such as evidence, appeals, etc. No matter what document or procedure you are involved with, you must follow the particular rule or rules that govern the matter.
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.
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.
The American Bar Association (ABA) has also been involved with issues related to self-representation. In 2008, the Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access was presented to the Chicago-Kent College of Law Center for Access to Justice & Technology for making justice more accessible to the public through the use of the Internet in teaching, legal practice and public access to the law. Their A2J Author Project is a software tool that empowers those from the courts, legal services programs and educational institutions to create guided interviews resulting in document assembly, electronic filing and data collection. Viewers using A2J to go through a guided interview are led down a virtual pathway to the courthouse. As they answer simple questions about their legal issue, the technology then "translates" the answers to create, or assemble, the documents that are needed for filing with the court.
It is not the purpose of this chapter to teach the pro se litigant legal research and writing nor is it our goal to sort out the complexities of applying the law, whether it be statutory or case law, to the facts of a particular case. The law prohibits personnel in the Clerk's office from providing information regarding the application of the law to the facts of any case. The intention here is to provide information that is basic to a law library to be used as a guideline.
Against this background, it doesn’t normally make sense to interpret your adversary’s offer to “talk settlement” as a sign of weakness. Nor should you be reluctant to be the one to suggest a negotiated settlement. In fact, judges, arbitrators, and mediators routinely urge adversaries to explore settlement even if previous attempts have failed. It’s a wise person who never closes the door to a reasonable settlement.
According to the 1996 report on pro se by University of Maryland Law School, 57% of pro se said they could not afford a lawyer, 18% said they did not wish to spend the money to hire a lawyer, 21% said they believed that their case was simple and therefore they did not need an attorney. Also, ABA Legal Needs Study shows that 45% of pro se believe that "Lawyers are more concerned with their own self promotion than their client's best interest."
If the parties do not settle, the case will proceed to trial. At trial, both the plaintiff and defendant will present their cases through evidence, including witness and expert testimony. Defamation cases are typically questions of fact, so a jury will decide whether or not the plaintiff was defamed and, if so, the amount of injury damages you're entitled to receive.
If the case is not dismissed via summary judgment, defense counsel should always request a pretrial conference with the court. That way the pro se plaintiff can hear from the judge, before everyone is in the courtroom, what evidence may or may not be addressed during the trial, and what the expectations will be of the pro se plaintiff’s behavior during the trial.
All jurisdictions have adopted rules regarding unbundled legal services. For example, most states follow the American Bar Association’s Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.2(c), which provides that lawyers may limit the scope of their representation, as long as the limitations are reasonable under the circumstances, and the client gives informed consent.
There are a few potential omitted variables that this analysis is unable to capture. One possible issue is changing caseloads in each district over time. If the composition of EDNY’s pro se docket shifted in a different way than New York’s other district courts in the years surrounding the reform, that may hide the impact of EDNY’s reforms. Another possibility is that noncourt legal actors may have changed their strategies in response to EDNY reforms. If, for example, outside legal aid clinics started shifting their resources to non-EDNY courts in response to this reform, possibly because those clinics knew that pro se litigants would receive adequate assistance in EDNY due to the reforms, that may also mask the impact of these reforms in EDNY. Finally, because this analysis compares the outcomes of pro se litigation in EDNY with outcomes of pro se litigation in the other New York district courts, if those district courts also made improvements to the pro se litigation process during this time period, the analysis might understate the effect of the EDNY reforms.
133. For example, this Comment does not consider how many resources would be required to enact civil Gideon nor whether they could be better used elsewhere. It also does not consider whether civil Gideon itself would be effective at improving civil pro se outcomes. While the experimental literature discussed earlier suggests that access to counsel improves case outcomes for pro se litigants, it is unclear whether a similar quality of counsel would be provided in a civil Gideon world. Indeed, the success of Gideon in the criminal context is a hotly debated subject, with many scholars considering it a disappointment. For an example of a scholar who considers Gideon a disappointment, see generally Erwin Chemerinsky, Lessons from Gideon, 122 Yale L J 2676 (2013).
Some courts issue orders against self representation in civil cases. A court enjoined a former attorney from suing the new lover of her former attorney. The Superior Court of Bergen New Jersey also issued an order against pro se litigation based on a number of lawsuits that were dismissed and a failure to provide income tax returns in case sanctions might issue. The Superior Court of New Jersey issued an order prohibiting a litigant from filing new lawsuits. The Third Circuit however ruled that a restriction on pro se litigation went too far and that it could not be enforced if a litigant certified that he has new claims that were never before disposed of on the merits. The 10th Circuit ruled that before imposing filing restrictions, a district court must set forth examples of abusive filings and that if the district court did not do so, the filing restrictions must be vacated. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals wrote that "private individuals have 'a constitutional right of access to the courts', that is, the 'right to sue and defend in the courts'."