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”).
121. See Bloom and Hershkoff, 16 Notre Dame J L, Ethics & Pub Pol at 493–94 (cited in note 74). About 15 percent of civil cases were pro se cases in 1999, and a substantial percentage of those cases were prisoner pro se cases, so the percent of the docket comprised of nonprisoner pro se cases was relatively close to the typical 9 percent of the federal docket for the time period that Table 2A covers. Further, the bulk of those cases were civil rights cases, employment discrimination cases, and Social Security cases. The former two categories are also the most typical types of nonprisoner pro se litigation in this analysis, as Table 2D shows.
Many pro se resources come from these sources: local courts, which may offer limited self-help assistance;[62] public interest groups, such as the American Bar Association, which sponsors reform and promotes resources for self-help[citation needed], and commercial services, which sell pre-made forms allowing self-represented parties to have formally correct documents. For example, the Self-Represented Litigation Network (SRLN) is an organization whose web site, srln.org, is dedicated to issues related to self-represented litigation and offers a curated resource library for legal professionals (courts, lawyers, and allies) engaged in pro se litigation. The organization provides no assistance with particular complaints.[63] "Self-help" legal service providers must take care not to cross the line into giving advice, in order to avoid "unauthorized practice of law", which in the U.S. is the unlawful act of a non-lawyer practicing law.[64]
This Part focuses on an extensive set of pro se reforms made in the federal district court in EDNY. Because these reforms were publicly announced around the time of their implementation, this Part conducts a difference-in-differences analysis of these reforms to complement the differences analysis from Part III.116 This analysis strengthens the results in Part III, suggesting that pro se reforms have not impacted case outcomes for pro se litigants.
This book explains rules and techniques for preparing and trying a civil case, including how to handle a case in family court or bank­ruptcy court. It does not cover criminal cases. See “Civil and Criminal Cases,” below. You will learn how to figure out what evidence you need to present a legally solid case, whether you are a plaintiff or a defendant. Among other things, you will learn:
The relative win ratios tell a similar story. There is wide variance based on the type of lawsuit being brought, but represented litigants consistently have far better outcomes than pro se litigants in court. When both parties are represented, plaintiffs win at a rate between 1.4 and 42.1 times as often as when only the defendant is represented. By contrast, a represented plaintiff is roughly 0.2 to 0.9 times as likely to win a case against a represented defendant as against a pro se defendant.91
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.[40] 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.[1]

Comment is five to ten years old. Courts may have developed more promising innovations in the meantime, but this type of analysis would not be able to detect those benefits until most or all of the litigation begun in those years has run its course. Additionally, it’s possible that some of these reforms are significantly impacting case outcomes for prisoner pro se litigants, which may separately be an important goal of these reforms.


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.[40]
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I did in fact include the notice advising the defendant’s atty of the consequences of the failure to answer the request, as stated in the ORCP 45 Rule. The 30 days allotted by 45 B have elapsed and I have received no response at all, either admitting, denying or objecting to the request. I’m preparing the Motion To Determine Sufficiency, and I will follow your counsel by including a copy of the Request For Admissions, even though I filed a copy with the Court, along with proof of service, on the day I served the request to the defendant’s lawyer. If the Judge grants the motion, issues an Order… well, my case is halfway won. And, I won’t have to drag a handfull of witnesses into court, against their will, to testify. Many times I’ve felt overwhelmed by this, ready to fold my hand even though I know the defendant’s lawyer is bluffing, trying to intimidate me into giving up. Thank you very much for your knowledge, your advice, and your encouragement. I’m thinking I may very well prevail afterall.

Do I have a basic understanding of the required court documents? Mounds of documents can be very intimidating to a lot of people, legal officials included. Parents considering pro se representation should become familiar with various types of family law documents. Again, become friendly with the court clerk and ask for his or her help identifying the correct forms, where to get them, when they are due, and how they should be submitted. 


Some courts issue orders against self representation in civil cases. A court enjoined a former attorney from suing the new lover of her former attorney.[29] The Superior Court of Bergen New Jersey also issued an order against pro se litigation based on a number of lawsuits that were dismissed and a failure to provide income tax returns in case sanctions might issue.[30] The Superior Court of New Jersey issued an order prohibiting a litigant from filing new lawsuits.[31] The Third Circuit however ruled that a restriction on pro se litigation went too far and that it could not be enforced if a litigant certified that he has new claims that were never before disposed of on the merits.[32] The 10th Circuit ruled that before imposing filing restrictions, a district court must set forth examples of abusive filings and that if the district court did not do so, the filing restrictions must be vacated.[33] The District of Columbia Court of Appeals wrote that "private individuals have 'a constitutional right of access to the courts',[34] that is, the 'right to sue and defend in the courts'."[35]
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