In 1963, the Supreme Court broke from precedent and found the right to counsel to be a “fundamental safeguard[ ] of liberty” guaranteed to all criminal defendants by the Constitution.28 In the landmark case Gideon v Wainwright,29 Clarence Earl Gideon was charged in Florida state court with breaking and entering with intent to commit petty larceny.30 Gideon appeared alone in court and requested a court-appointed attorney to assist his case. The Florida court declined, as Florida did not provide counsel for criminal defendants in noncapital cases.31 After granting certiorari,32 the Supreme Court held that the Due Process Clause requires states to provide counsel in noncapital criminal cases, overturning Betts. The Court focused on the “fundamental” nature of the right, comparing it favorably to rights like freedom of speech and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, and the Court held that the Due Process Clause prohibited states from violating the right.33 This holding, along with its extension to misdemeanors in Argersinger v Hamlin,34 established the modern right to counsel in all criminal cases.35

Table 3C relies on the same data but considers the win rates of different types of litigants based on the total number of policies that the district court has implemented rather than which particular policies the court has implemented. Table 3C thus seeks to test the slightly different hypothesis that there may be a cumulative benefit from implementing these policies even if none is individually impactful.

Courts and commentators appear to believe these reforms are effective. Chief judges and clerks of courts were asked in the FJC Survey about the most effective measures for helping nonprisoner pro se litigants. Tables 1.1 and 1.2, reproduced from the FJC Survey below, show that both clerks’ offices and chief judges at district courts believe measures like those discussed above are effective at improving outcomes for nonprisoner pro se litigants.68
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.
 A. Your initial court date will  be  shown as the "Trial Date" near the top  of the complaint. If the defendant is not served with summons, the Judge will cause another summons (called an "alias summons") to be issued; a new  "Return Date", and a  new trial date will be shown on the complaint.  You are required to appear in court on the trial date even if you know the defendant was not served with summons, but you need  not bring your  witnesses. Your appearance is required so that  you may proceed with renewed efforts to serve the  summons.
Do I have the time and resources available to represent myself pro se? As you can see, there is a lot of learn before representing yourself at a child custody hearing. Parents considering pro se representation should carefully consider whether they have the time, determination, and undivided attention necessary to dedicate to this task before deciding to go it alone in court. 
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.
Using delaying tactics to maximize the inconvenience and cost of litigation. For example, in the case of GMAC v. HTFC Corp., a deponent (on advice of counsel) provided a long and meandering answer, and in response to the deposing attorney‘s protest stated, “I‘m going to keep going. I‘ll have you flying in and out of New York City every single month and this will go on for years. And by the way, along the way GMAC will be bankrupt and I will laugh at you.”

Tables 2E and 2F, the final tables in this Part, examine how win rates for pro se litigants vary across different types of cases. The win ratios in Table 2E compare the probability of a plaintiff winning when both parties are represented to the probability of a plaintiff winning when the plaintiff is a pro se plaintiff but the defendant is represented. In the column “Plaint Rep’d / Plaint Pro Se,” the number 2.0 would mean that plaintiffs win twice as often when both parties are represented as compared to cases in which the plaintiff is pro se. The higher the number, the better represented litigants fare relative to pro se litigants.
Finally, one other potential policy implication suggested by this Comment is that expanded access to counsel for certain pro se litigants may be an attractive option. This Comment does not fully analyze the potential costs or benefits of civil Gideon and accordingly comes to no conclusion about its overall merits.133 However, many commentators have opposed civil Gideon partially on the grounds that pro se reforms at the trial court level could be a cheaper, but still effective, alternative.134 The Supreme Court has suggested a similar belief.135 But while not totally conclusive for the reasons described above, this Comment indicates that those reforms have not had the kind of impact on case outcomes that increased access to counsel might have. Because these reforms do not yet appear to be a viable and effective alternative to civil Gideon, this Comment suggests that improved case outcomes may be better achieved through expanded access to counsel than through pro se reforms.

"A few poor people are lucky enough to get legal services, but it's very few," said Paul Garlinghouse, a New Haven family lawyer who has worked in a clinic to teach people to represent themselves. "But then you have this huge mass of low-income and moderate-income people who just have to go it alone. You see them every day. They just stand up there, and it's painful to watch."


Public Counsel's Federal Pro Se Clinic can provide free legal assistance to people representing themselves in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.  The Clinic does not assist with criminal, bankruptcy, habeas, appeals, or any state cases.  The Clinic does not provide representation in court and cannot find an attorney to represent you.

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.
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