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.
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
The “Legal Services Lawyers” metric includes attorneys from ALAS (in Clayton, Fulton, Cobb, DeKalb, and Gwinnett counties) and GLSP (outside the five-county metro Atlanta area served by ALAS). For the ALAS counties, the number of Legal Services Lawyers serving a given county reflects both attorneys assigned to that county and a portion of the 22.5 ALAS attorneys not assigned to a particular county; for example, Cobb County has 6 ALAS lawyers, but its total includes 1/5 of the program-wide attorneys for an additional 4.5 attorneys. By contrast, GLSP attorneys are assigned to a particular region of the state and serve several counties (e.g. attorneys from the Albany-Valdosta office service 29 counties). Thus, outside the five-county metro area, the Legal Services Lawyers total for a particular county includes GLSP lawyers who also serve other counties. GLSP totals for a given county do not include 7 statewide attorneys or the 2 attorneys serving farmworkers throughout the state.
Fill-in-the-blank court forms for most states are available online. When you visit a state court website that has do-it-yourself forms, you may be asked a series of questions about your legal problem. Your answers will automatically generate the appropriate form with instructions on how to complete it and what to do with it once it’s done. To see the forms available on New York’s self-help website, visit www.nycourthelp.gov/diy/index.html.
Every agency tends to make its own rules and follow its own unique set of procedures. Many agencies describe their procedures on a website. In addition, an agency will furnish you with its rules as soon as you indicate that you want to file a claim. Be sure to contact the agency, ask for a copy of its rules before initiating a hearing, and follow them. The federal government and every state have an Administrative Procedure Act that provides basic protections in administrative hearings. You should read the applicable law and make sure the agency follows it. You can get information about these laws from a convenient database maintained by Florida State University at www.law.fsu.edu/library/admin.
If you represent yourself in an administrative hearing you should be as respectful to the ALJ as you would be to a judge, even though the former wears a suit and the latter a robe. Moreover, whether you address your arguments to a judge or an ALJ, you have the same need to present a clear and persuasive case. Make sure you understand the basis of an agency’s action, or what evidence you need to produce to uphold your claim. Also, any witnesses you rely on should attend the hearing, and you should be ready to support your claim with documents and records.
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.
In New Hampshire one party is pro se in 85% of all civil cases in the district court and 48% of all civil cases in the superior court in 2004. In probate court, both sides are unrepresented by lawyers in 38% of cases. In superior court domestic relations cases, almost 70% of cases have one pro se party, while in district court domestic violence cases, 97% of the cases have one pro se party.
49. See, for example, Barton and Bibas, 160 U Pa L Rev at 980 (cited in note 5) (identifying flaws in the arguments of civil Gideon advocates); Barton, 62 Fla L Rev at 1249 (cited in note 36) (describing it as “quite unlikely that the current Court would even take a civil Gideon case”). See also generally Laura K. Abel, A Right to Counsel in Civil Cases: Lessons from Gideon v. Wainwright, 15 Temple Political & CR L Rev 527 (2006).
The mission of the United States District and Bankruptcy Courts for the District of Idaho is to provide an impartial and accessible forum for the just, timely, and economical resolution of legal proceedings within the jurisdiction of the courts, so as to preserve judicial independence, protect individual rights and liberties, and promote public trust and confidence.
Some pro se litigants who are federal prisoners are subject to the Prison Litigation Reform Act. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has asserted: ""For over thirteen years, the Prison Litigation Reform Act has denied access to the courts to countless prisoners who have become victims of abuse, creating a system of injustice that denies redress for prisoners alleging serious abuses, barriers that don't apply to anyone else. It is time for Congress to pass legislation to restore the courts as a needed check on prisoner abuse." 54% of judges responding to a Federal Judicial Conference survey use videoconferences for prisoner pro se hearings.:29
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.
136. See Civil Cases Filed, Terminated, and Pending from SY 1988 to Present (Federal Judicial Center, 2017), archived at http://perma.cc/Y4CY-MVG5. Note that the data is not available for download from the Perma link. For the most recent data, see Civil Cases Filed, Terminated, and Pending from SY 1988 to Present (Federal Judicial Center, 2018), available at http://www.fjc.gov/research/idb/civil-cases-filed-terminated-and-pending-
Once convicted, a prisoner no longer has the right to a public defender. Motions for post conviction relief are considered civil motions. Brandon Moon is an example of an unsuccessful pro se litigant who became successful when his case was taken by a lawyer. Moon's case was taken by the Innocence Project, and he was released after 17 years in jail for a rape that he did not commit.
This notion is particularly crucial when defense counsel files a motion for summary judgment. The court will be less tolerant of a pro se plaintiff’s pleading deficiencies if the plaintiff was made aware of the complexities involved in responding to a summary judgment motion. In fact, the pro se plaintiff will have been alerted that perhaps they should engage counsel at this point in their case, and failure to do so may not serve their best interests.
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.
It can be difficult to decide whether to represent yourself in a child custody or child support hearing. Take the time to give careful consideration to each of the factors mentioned above. Additionally, you should speak to a competent attorney with experience in child custody cases in your state. He or she can help you decide whether filing for custody pro se is a good decision, based on the facts of your case and your individual needs.
Now in its second year, the SDNY Legal Clinic for Pro Se Litigants has successfully assisted hundreds of litigants in a range of cases including employment discrimination, civil rights, intellectual property and more. In many instances, cases that do not belong in the SDNY are diverted to another more appropriate venue, such as Family Court or Housing Court – saving litigants time and anxiety and sparing the court’s limited resources.
The United States District Court for the District of Idaho have prepared this handbook specifically for the person who has chosen, for whatever reason, to represent himself/herself as a party to a lawsuit: the pro se litigant. The purpose of this handbook is to provide the pro se litigant with a practical and informative initial resource that will assist in the decision-making process and in the filing of a lawsuit when choosing not to retain the aid of a licensed attorney...