Defense counsel will have to prepare defense witnesses so they respond politely and directly to tedious, often incomprehensible questions from the pro se plaintiff. If a defense witness loses his or her temper, or appears to be condescending to the pro se plaintiff, the jury will certainly find against any testimony given by the defense witness, even if the jury does not necessarily agree with the plaintiff’s view of the case.
Clarence Earl Gideon, a man who could not afford to hire an attorney to represent him, appeared in a Florida court in 1961, after being accused of felony breaking and entering, requesting that the court appoint counsel to represent him. The state court denied his request, stating that Florida state law allowed the appointment of counsel only if the defendant has been accused of a capital offense. Gideon, who was forced to act pro se was convicted of the crime and sentenced to 5 years in prison.
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.