Although case outcomes do not encompass all relevant information in assessing the impact or value of pro se reforms, they are nonetheless an important metric to consider. Lawyers are supposed to help their clients win cases. Accordingly, the viability of pro se reform as a substitute for better access to counsel should hinge in large part on its effectiveness at helping pro se litigants win those cases. Moreover, case outcomes are the typical metric that commentators consider when measuring the value of access to counsel to pro se litigants.101 Hence, when evaluating the tradeoffs of expanding pro se reform against expanding access to counsel, case outcomes are one of the most natural and salient measures.
Posner’s resignation is a powerful reminder of the challenges pro se litigants continue to face. His belief that pro se litigants are frequently mistreated in civil litigation and denied a full and fair opportunity to vindicate their claims is neither new nor limited to federal appellate courts.3 Numerous legal commentators have expressed similar concerns.4 Yet, though the belief that pro se litigants are underserved by the legal community is widespread, the full extent of the challenges they face in court is still only partially understood.
There are two court systems in the United States: the state courts and the federal courts. The state courts typically hear matters relating to civil, criminal, domestic (divorce and child custody), probate, and property in accordance with the laws of each state. Matters typically heard by the federal courts involve violation of federal laws; admiralty and maritime matters; United States patent, trademark, and copyright matters; bankruptcy proceedings; proceedings against ambassadors, consuls, and ministers. These matters usually fall into two main categories: (1) federal question cases -- cases which arise under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States; and (2) diversity cases -- civil matters arising between parties who are citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.
We strongly recommend that you prepare a trial notebook. A trial notebook is a series of outlines covering matters such as what you must prove (or, if you are a defendant, disprove); the evidence you will use to prove (or disprove) those matters; the topics you intend to cover on direct and cross-examination; a list of the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of your witnesses; and the exhibits you plan to introduce into evidence. The notebook serves as your courtroom manager. You can refer to it to make sure that you do not overlook evidence you planned to offer or an argument you intended to make.
4. Objections: During the examination of a witness, one side may “object” to the questioning or testimony of a witness or presentation of evidence if the attorney feels the testimony or evidence about to be given should be excluded. If the objection is sustained by the judge, that particular testimony or evidence is excluded. If the objection is overruled by the judge, the testimony or evidence may be given. A ruling on an objection may be the basis for appeal; however, in order to preserve the right to appeal, a party must ask the court recorder that that portion of the trial--the question/evidence, the objection, and the ruling-- be transcribed in order to preserve the record for later appeal.
This bias exists in direct contradiction to the Supreme Court's ruling in Faretta v. California. that everyone has the constitutional right to proceed without counsel. The reasoning behind that decision means that the Constitution requires our justice system to be neutral towards the self-represented litigant. That in turn means that the courts must offer a level playing field for the represented and unrepresented alike, consistent with basic principles of fairness.
To continue the first tip, one of the best things you can do is exude confidence in your physical mannerisms. This means standing up straight, having good posture, speaking with a confident voice, and making eye contact. There may be days when doing these things is difficult. There may even be days when you feel as if you are being phony by putting on this external face when you don’t feel that way internally.
Oftentimes, self-represented litigants become reactive when there’s a lawyer on the other side. Instead of getting ahead of things or running their own case, they let the lawyer take the lead. They spend so much time responding to discovery requests, summary judgment motions, motions to dismiss, and other filings that they don’t formulate a strategy of their own. They don’t do their own discovery or object to certain requests because they’re swamped and often intimidated. So, they’re always behind and in a constant reactive state. If a wise opponent sees how reactive you are, they can walk you right into an error. So, take control of your case. Never let a lawyer think that he’s in charge of it.
But that shouldn't make a difference, as all cases are to be judged on their merits, not by the persons who bring them. By law, every federal judge must take an oath affirming to "administer justice without respect to person, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich," and to "faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as judge under the Constitution and laws of the United States."
As we read we can let the words gently flow over us. We can let the words quietly be spoken to us in there own sweet way. We can let ourselves open to the thoughts and their meanings, the ideas and their origin, the phrases and the understandings that they have ready for us. Ready for us to assimilate and take on board. If we let them filter through and allow the words their power to move and rejuvenate. If we let ourselves be uplifted and filled with their sometimes hidden insights. Too gently and slowly to impact on our lives as we read - and in the future when we recall their meaning for us.
Unfortunately for this empirical exercise, district courts do not randomly decide whether to implement a particular reform. If these pro se reforms had been randomly assigned, then this analysis would mimic an experiment, and it would be safer to conclude (provided the statistics suggested so) that any differences in case outcomes shown in the tables below were causal. Without random assignment of pro se reforms to district courts, the conclusions of this analysis may suffer from selection bias. For example, courts that are particularly favorable to pro se litigants might also be more likely to implement reforms. If pro se litigants happened to fare better in these courts, it would be difficult to empirically discern whether litigants fare better because of the reforms or the favorable attitude, and some measure of the district court’s favorability toward pro se litigants could be an important omitted variable.
Overall, the analysis in this Section suggests that, though many federal district courts have implemented reforms aimed at improving case outcomes for pro se litigants, they have not yet succeeded in improving those outcomes. Tables 3A and 3B suggest that a variety of policies, each implemented in a substantial number of district courts, have all been ineffective in improving case outcomes for pro se litigants. Similarly, the evidence suggests that even courts that have implemented multiple or many of these policies have not improved outcomes for pro se litigants thus far. Despite the belief expressed by clerks’ offices and chief judges of federal district courts, commentators, and the Supreme Court that these types of measures are effective, the empirical evidence suggests that these measures make no difference in case outcomes.115
In Faretta v. California, the Supreme Court of the United States held that criminal defendants have a constitutional right to refuse counsel and represent themselves in state criminal proceedings. That said, the right to represent oneself is not absolute. It is the Court's right and duty to determine if a particular individual is capable of representing himself, and can inquire into the individual's lucidity and mental status to make that determination.