Gideon, the movement has generally focused on providing counsel for indigent parties in proceedings involving threats to their basic needs.47 From the movement’s inception, commentators have been divided over the merits of civil Gideon. Advocates have put forth a number of arguments in favor of civil Gideon. They have argued that representation in civil litigation secures constitutional rights to due process and equal protection of law, is necessary to ensure fair trials, is “sound social policy,” and helps ensure more consistent outcomes for defendants.48 Critics have countered with both direct refutations and alternative suggestions. They have argued that Gideon wasn’t that effective in aiding criminal defendants, so civil Gideon would not be either; civil Gideon would be ineffective notwithstanding the effectiveness of Gideon; civil
Table 3C tells a similar story as Tables 3A and 3B. Although there is some variation in the win rates, there is no discernable pattern. Pro se litigants do not consistently have better case outcomes in districts that have implemented more policies aimed at improving the lot of pro se litigants. Instead, the win rates of pro se litigants deviate only a couple of percentage points from the overall average win rates for pro se litigants even in districts that have implemented three, four, or more of the policies considered in this Comment.
Table 3B—providing forms and handbooks as well as individual case assistance, for instance. Because this reform effort is different from those that Part III discusses, it’s hard to directly compare them. But both sets of reforms fit into a similar broad bucket: attempts by courts to improve the pro se litigation process by facilitating simpler and more convenient interactions between pro se litigants and the courts.
Paul Bergman is a Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law and a recipient of two University Distinguished Teaching Awards. His books include Nolo’s Deposition Handbook (with Moore, Nolo); Reel Justice: The Courtroom Goes to the Movies (Andrews & McMeel); Trial Advocacy: Inferences, Arguments, Techniques (with Moore and Binder, West Publishing Co.); Trial Advocacy in a Nutshell (West Publishing Co.); Represent Yourself in Court: How to Prepare & Try a Winning Case (with Berman, Nolo); Depositions in a Nutshell (with Moore, Binder, and Light, West Publishing); Lawyers as Counselors: A Client-Centered Approach (with Binder, Tremblay, and Weinstein, West Publishing); and Cracking the Case Method (Vandeplas Publishing). He has also published numerous articles in law journals.
The AO dataset was created for administrative purposes rather than research, and the reliability of some of the fields kept in the dataset can be uncertain, as shown in a 2003 study of the AO dataset.141 However, this 2003 empirical analysis of the AO dataset suggests that win rates, the key outcome variable used in this analysis, can be deduced reliably from the AO dataset.142 That 2003 study concludes that when “judgment is entered for plaintiff or defendant (at least in cases coded with nonzero-awards) the reported victor is overwhelmingly accurate” and thus that analysis based on win rates in the AO dataset is appropriate.143
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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."
According to the National Center for State Courts 2006 report, in the United States, many state court systems and the federal courts are experiencing an increasing proportion of pro se litigants. Estimates of the pro se rate of family law overall averaged 67% in California, 73% in Florida's large counties, and 70% in some Wisconsin counties. In San Diego, for example, the number of divorce filings involving at least one pro se litigant rose from 46% in 1992 to 77% in 2000, in Florida from 66% in 1999 to 73% in 2001. California reports in 2001 that over 50% of family matters filings in custody and visitation are by pro se litigants. In the U.S. Federal Court system for the year 2013 approximately 27% of civil actions filed, 92% of prisoner petitions and 11% of non-prisoner petitions were filed by pro se litigants. Defendants in political trials tend to participate in the proceedings more than defendants in non-political cases, as they may have greater ability to depart from courtroom norms to speak to political and moral issues.