103. The concern with omitted variable bias is that some other variable not included in the model explains both the independent and dependent variable in the model. For example, in this case there could be an “omitted variable” measuring how much courts care about protecting pro se litigants. A court with judges who care a lot about protecting pro se litigants may implement many pro se reforms and also have favorable case outcomes for pro se litigants because the judges are favorable to pro se litigants. Though it is difficult to rule out all omitted variables, in this case the widespread implementation of at least some reforms, coupled with the significant variation in which and how many are implemented by each court, suggests this kind of omitted variable is unlikely. For more discussion of omitted variable bias, see generally Kevin A. Clarke, The Phantom Menace: Omitted Variable Bias in Econometric Research, 22 Conflict Mgmt & Peace Sci 341 (2005).
analysis.124 The analysis below attempts only to assess the impact of the creation of the pro se office over its first five years of existence. Specific information about subsequent reforms implemented by the office is not readily available and hence not ripe for analysis. However, any such reforms may have had a different impact on case outcomes for pro se litigants and, accordingly, may indicate more promising future directions for pro se reform.
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.
According to Boston Bar Association Task Force 1998 report in every court studied by the task force, litigants without lawyers are present in surprising numbers. In some counties, over 75% of the cases in Probate and Family Courts have at least one party unrepresented. In the Northeast Housing Court, over 50% of the landlords and 92% of the tenants appear without lawyers in summary process cases.
78. Civil pro se litigation by prisoners is heavily concentrated in two pseudocriminal types of proceedings: prisoner habeas corpus petitions (nature of suit code 530) and prisoner civil rights petitions (nature of suit code 550). For a more detailed description of these fields, see generally Integrated Data Base Civil Documentation (cited in note 77).
11. See Donna Stienstra, Jared Bataillon, and Jason A. Cantone, Assistance to Pro Se Litigants in U.S. District Courts: A Report on Surveys of Clerks of Court and Chief Judges *3 (Federal Judicial Center, 2011), archived at http://perma.cc/8TYT-7Y43 (reporting that 90 percent of the US district courts surveyed have adopted at least one procedural reform).
5. If you or your group did anything to inform that particular business owner of his violation, then you might want to make that paragraph 19. It might read like this, "During the summer of 1997, the Louisville CIL visited the business in question, and spoke to the owner. The owner could easily make his business accessible but has chosen not to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act."
Hourly rates for lawyers who do personal legal-services work typically run from $100 to $250 per hour. Certain experts and big-firm lawyers charge even more. It is important to find out exactly how the lawyer will calculate the bill. For example, some lawyers who charge by the hour bill in minimum increments of 15 minutes (quarter hour), and others bill in increments of six minutes (tenth of an hour). That means that a five-minute phone conversation for which you are billed the minimum amount could cost you different amounts, depending on how the lawyer figures the bill.
Although this analysis focuses on case outcomes, those are by no means the only potential metric for analyzing the impact of pro se reforms. Another relevant, tangible measure is the length of proceedings. Pro se reforms have the potential to greatly expedite pro se proceedings, helping to ensure that litigants are able to move on with their lives as quickly as possible. Shortened proceedings are valuable in their own right without impacting case outcomes. Less tangibly, it may be the case that pro se reforms improve the litigation experience for pro se litigants and help ensure that they feel they have had a fair hearing in court. Increasing satisfaction with court proceedings is a significant benefit to litigants and also boosts the public perception of the legal system—both valuable outcomes that would not show up in the analysis below.100
Recently, I saw a commercial in which a man was depicted performing surgery on himself. While that may have been an attention-getter, we all know that we cannot go to the hospital for such a procedure. On the other hand, we can go to the courthouse and pursue our own case. If so, we are said to be proceeding pro se. "Black's Law Dictionary" (eighth edition) defines the term as "For oneself." It describes the person who appears in court on his or her own behalf without a lawyer.
Table 2D shows the most common types of litigation in federal district courts and the frequency with which each type of case involves a pro se plaintiff or defendant. Pro se plaintiffs bring a disproportionately large percent of civil rights and employment discrimination cases. In contrast, pro se plaintiffs rarely bring other types of cases, such as products liability, contract, asbestos, and insurance cases.86 Table 2D also shows that the only types of cases that frequently involve pro se defendants are property cases, which are primarily foreclosure proceedings.87 Perhaps the most important takeaway from Table 2D is that a substantial proportion of many types of cases are brought by pro se plaintiffs. Though there is significant variance—pro se litigants bring 32 percent of civil rights cases but bring a more modest 8 percent of cases involving the government and 2 percent of insurance and product liability cases—pro se litigants are prevalent across many types of cases. Any reforms targeting just one type of lawsuit cannot fully address the scope of issues faced by pro se litigants.
Knowing ahead of time that you may encounter a hostile attitude is the best weapon against it. Read and study this book and other legal resources, many of which are available free online or in your local library. Learn how to prepare and present a persuasive case and follow the proper procedures for the Clerk’s Office and the courtroom. If you believe that court personnel at any level are being rude to you, be courteous and professional in return, even as you insist upon fair treatment. By knowing and following court rules and courtroom techniques, you can often earn the respect of the judge and the others who work in the courtroom. As a result, you may well find that they will go out of their way to help you.
Sara J. Berman is the Director of Academic and Bar Success Programs at the nonprofit AccessLex Institute Center for Legal Education Excellence, an organization committed to understanding the barriers that impede access to law school for historically underrepresented groups and improving access to law school for all; identifying actionable strategies and public policies to increase law school affordability; and strengthening the value of legal education. Berman is the author of several bar exam and legal education books and articles, including Pass the Bar Exam: A Practical Guide to Achieving Academic & Professional Goals and Bar Exam MPT Preparation & Experiential Learning for Law Students: Interactive Performance Test Training. Before joining AccessLex, Berman worked for more than two decades in various law schools. She has more than 15 years of experience in distance learning in legal education, and co-authored Represent Yourself in Court: How to Prepare and Try a Winning Case and The Criminal Law Handbook: Know Your Rights, Survive the System, plain English primers on the civil and criminal justice systems. More on Berman’s publications at https://ssrn.com/author=2846291 and on AccessLex publications at https://www.ssrn.com/link/AccessLex-Institute-RES.html
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.
6. The Supreme Court has indicated awareness of this issue. See Neitzke v Williams, 490 US 319, 326 (1989) (noting “the problems in judicial administration caused by the surfeit of meritless in forma pauperis complaints in the federal courts, not the least of which is the possibility that meritorious complaints will receive inadequate attention or be difficult to identify amidst the overwhelming number of meritless complaints”).
We often talk to parents about whether to file for child custody pro se, a legal term also known as 'self-representation.' In general, we recommend that parents proceed with caution when it comes to filing for child custody or child support pro se. The following questions and tips can help you determine the best course of action related to your case.
50. For one helpful discussion of how and why the efficacy of Gideon has been doubted, see Donald A. Dripps, Why Gideon Failed: Politics and Feedback Loops in the Reform of Criminal Justice, 70 Wash & Lee L Rev 883, 894–99 (2013). But see Wilkinson, 67 Vand L Rev at 1127–29 (cited in note 3) (arguing that criminal defense lawyers appointed to represent indigent defendants are typically effective).
Lawsuit Funding for Attorneys Litigation funding for Plaintiffs Litigation Finance Brokers Choosing a Litigation Finance Company Choosing Between Litigation Finance Companies Understanding Lawsuit Funding Companies Litigation Finance Firms Litigation Finance Trade Associations Litigation finance funds Find a Litigation Finance Firm Disrupting Hedge Funds in Litigation Finance Investors in Litigation Finance Litigation finance vs. private equity Champerty in Litigation Finance Disclosure of Litigation Funding Privilege Doctrines in Litigation Funding Regulations in Litigation Finance Legislation on Lawsuit Funding Finding the lowest litigation finance rates Litigation Funding Moves into the Mainstream Trends in Litigation Finance The Legal Funding Industry Statistics on Litigation Funding The History of Lawsuit Funding Key Risks in Litigation Funding The Growth of the Litigation Finance Industry The Market For Litigation Finance The Market Size of Litigation Finance Litigation Finance Explained Litigation Finance Definitions A Handbook for Litigation Finance How does Litigation Funding Work? Litigation Finance Primer The Pros and Cons of Lawsuit Funding Tax Treatment of Litigation Finance Litigation Finance and Usury Are litigation finance contracts loans? Post-judgment Litigation Funding Is litigation finance available for pro se cases? Getting the Fastest Litigation Funding Pre-settlement Lawsuit Funding Legal Funding for Workers Compensation Claims Legal Funding for Civil Cases Can litigation funding be an alternative to legal aid? Careers in Litigation Finance
Some still remain skeptical about pro se reform. Commentators have argued that unfair advantages for pro se litigants correspond to unfair disadvantages for their opponents in civil proceedings, that tweaking the court system specifically for pro se litigants undermines the rule of law, and that reforms may lead courts to devote more resources to cases that often prove frivolous.61 Other detractors of trial-court reform for pro se litigants have opposed it on opposite grounds, arguing that these reforms may be counterproductive and harm pro se litigants62 or that they don’t go far enough and that civil Gideon is needed to fully protect the rights of pro se litigants.63
Although it's a little cheesy, having an alter ego of sorts is a very helpful way to boost self-confidence. If we pretend like we're someone else--strong, willful, self-confident--we never have to subject ourselves to the fear of our personal worth not being enough for others. We should not necessarily lie about who we are, or invent false facts, but instead find another mode of existence in which we may tap into to be comfortable in our own skin.
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."
From Figure 1, it’s difficult to tell whether there is a trend in EDNY meaningfully different from the trend seen in other New York district courts. To investigate this further, this Comment runs the logistic regression described above. Table 4 displays the results of that regression. Because the outcome variable is whether a plaintiff wins or loses a particular case, and each of the independent variables in this regression is a binary dummy variable, the coefficients describe the change in the probability of a case outcome when the variable is set to 1 instead of 0. Hence, a coefficient of 0.5 on the variable “EDNY Reform Dummy” would imply that EDNY Reform increased the chances of a pro se plaintiff winning a case by 0.5 percent.
The best way for a lawyer to understand bias against the self-represented litigant is to become one, an experience I recently went through in a civil proceeding. Even before the judge examined my papers or knew what I was seeking (and whether I was on track to achieve it), he expressed deep skepticism that I could competently handle the case myself. After I stood my ground, the judge warned me that I would be held responsible for meticulously complying with every court rule. Lawyers can also learn a lot by coaching a self-represented person through a judicial procedure. Very quickly, most lawyer-coaches come to appreciate how badly the self-represented are treated by court clerks and judges.
7. At least some commentators have expressed concern that allocating more legal resources to pro se civil litigants might take away from resources needed for indigent criminal defense. See Barton and Bibas, 160 U Pa L Rev at 980–81 (cited in note 5). It is important, however, to recognize that legal resources also may trade off with nonlegal resources, and an analysis accounting for these trade-offs may make the economics of expanded legal resources for pro se litigants look more attractive. Additional money spent on lawyers or pro se assistance might be more economical than it first appears if, for example, additional state spending in an eviction or wrongful termination proceeding saves the government from paying for homeless shelters or welfare assistance at a later date.
An attorney who represents himself or herself in a matter is still considered a pro se litigant. Self-representation by attorneys has frequently been the subject of criticism, disapproval, or satire, with the most famous pronouncement on the issue being British poet Samuel Johnson's aphorism that "the attorney who represents himself in court has a fool for a client."
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The one solution to many of life's worries is simply to laugh them off. If you feel poorly about yourself, rest assured in the knowledge that everyone else does too--and let out a light chuckle about how ridiculous it is that we all worry so much about other's thoughts and opinions. One of the better aspects of growing up and into your own skin is learning how to laugh at yourself when things don't go as planned. The act of developing self-confidence is no different. So, laugh, and see how you'll love yourself just a little bit more with each beautiful, ringing one.