Books containing all of these rules should be available in a public law library. You may also want to purchase these books separately from the Clerk’s Office in the courthouse in which your case is filed, or from a legal bookstore, so that you can have them close at hand for reference as you read through this book and go to court. You can also find most court rules on the Internet. The information in Chapter 23 will help you start your search.
Privacy Requirements.  Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 5.2 addresses the privacy and security concerns over public access to electronic court files.  Under this rule, papers filed with the court should not contain anyone’s full social-security number or full birth date; the name of a person known to be a minor; or a complete financial-account number.  A filing may include only the last four digits of a social-security number and taxpayer identification number; the year of someone’s birth; a minor’s initials; and the last four digits of a financial-account number.
Christa Adkins, the owner of Pro Se One Stop Legal Document Services, LLC, offers highly personalized services to her customers because she has stood in their shoes and knows the fears and frustrations of navigating the legal system alone. Christa is not an attorney, but dedicates her heart and soul to helping other pro se litigants navigate the legal system and fill out their legal documents and forms. Christa has been highly successful in her own pro se endeavors. In 2016, she took her first appeal to the Third District Court of Appeal and successfully had the trial court reversed. Additionally, in 2016 she filed a successful pro se motion for disqualification of the trial judge and the trial judge was removed from her case. In 2017 Christa successfully submitted a pro se Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the Third District Court of Appeal. Her petition was granted.
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
This surprisingly easy hack is one that can be done anytime, anywhere--and is rarely done enough. People underestimate the power of an erect spine or a rigid stance. Carrying yourself like you are proud to be who you are indirectly gives your brain feedback that you are indeed a lovely human, so that you subsequently positive feelings about yourself. Who knew the body could be such a powerful tool?
Trial attorneys who are not mindful of the psychological and sociological elements at play when litigating against pro se parties risk exacerbating an already difficult situation by increasing the likelihood of protracted and unfocused litigation, appealable procedural missteps, and unmanaged expectations. Thus, at the outset of the lawsuit, an attorney facing a pro se opponent should make every effort to determine what is motivating the litigation (e.g., hurt feelings, anger, unmitigated expectations) and, if possible, the reason for the lack of representation. Throughout the pretrial process and during trial, a primary objective of counsel should be to strategically allow the pro se litigant to air his or her grievances in such a way as to limit the scope of triable issues while still being satisfied with his or her day in court.
As the plausibility of civil Gideon has diminished in the wake of Turner, trial court reforms for pro se litigants have emerged as a compromise. Both proponents and critics of civil Gideon see major potential benefits of pro se reform: it is a low-cost option that could conceivably provide meaningful benefits to pro se litigants without diverting legal resources from more critical cases, it helps ensure pro se litigants will receive fundamentally fair hearings, and it is a more politically and jurisprudentially feasible solution than civil Gideon.60

From an initial look at Figure 1, no meaningful change in the outcomes of pro se litigation in EDNY appears in the years following the creation of the pro se magistrate’s office. Instead, for all district courts in the New York area, there is seemingly considerable variance in case outcomes on a yearly basis, with pro se litigants performing very similarly on average in both sets of districts before and after the pro se reform. However, Figure 1 does reflect the possibility that the percent of cases won by pro se plaintiffs in the other New York district courts trended downward more than in EDNY. But this is uncertain. With the exception of 1999, the win rates of pro se litigants are relatively similar in EDNY to New York’s other district courts.


A number of recent studies funded by the courts and the ABA have advanced the concept of the multi-door courthouse, where courts would offer potential litigants a menu of possible solutions, many of which would not require a lawyer. This concept assumes courts want to reach out to prospective users and help them resolve their disputes in a manner appropriate to the dispute and the resources of the parties.
If you’re a law student—or plan to go to law school—this book is a useful and easy-to follow guide to the basics of civil procedure and litigation, from initial pleadings and discovery to appeal. The knowledge of general court procedures and fluency with legal terminology that you will gain from reading this book will help you successfully transition to law school and enhance your understanding of assigned casebook readings.
Finally, one other potential policy implication suggested by this Comment is that expanded access to counsel for certain pro se litigants may be an attractive option. This Comment does not fully analyze the potential costs or benefits of civil Gideon and accordingly comes to no conclusion about its overall merits.133 However, many commentators have opposed civil Gideon partially on the grounds that pro se reforms at the trial court level could be a cheaper, but still effective, alternative.134 The Supreme Court has suggested a similar belief.135 But while not totally conclusive for the reasons described above, this Comment indicates that those reforms have not had the kind of impact on case outcomes that increased access to counsel might have. Because these reforms do not yet appear to be a viable and effective alternative to civil Gideon, this Comment suggests that improved case outcomes may be better achieved through expanded access to counsel than through pro se reforms.
However, this book cannot serve as a complete guide to all the rules you need to know. For one thing, the exact rule in your court system may be somewhat different from the example we give. In that event, knowing about another similar rule—either a federal rule or another state’s rule—can help you locate the rule in your state. (See Chapter 23 for information on doing your own legal ­research.) Also, each court system has its own procedural rules that, though important, cannot be covered in this book. For example, local court rules set time limits for filing various kinds of documents and page limits on the length of those documents. You will have to learn and comply with these local requirements.

Our mission is to provide the highest level of service to the Court and all people having business before the Court. We maintain the public record of court proceedings, provide access to the Court and administrative support to the Court’s judicial officers. We earn the public’s trust and confidence by carrying out our mission in a manner that is accurate, efficient, courteous, and easy to understand.
Some states have just one kind of trial court, which hears all sorts of cases. In Illinois, for example, circuit courts hear all kinds of disputes. In other states, by contrast, cases that involve less than a certain dollar amount may be tried in one type of court (municipal, city, or justice court, for example), while larger cases go to another type of court (superior, county, or circuit court, for example).

Court clerks withhold information from non-lawyers that they routinely give to lawyers. If a lawyer's office calls to ask about a particular scheduling procedure, for example, the clerk provides all sorts of answers without thinking twice. But let a self-represented person ask for the same (or even much less) information, and it suddenly becomes legal advice. Many clerks' offices feel compelled to post signs saying, "We don't provide legal advice!" Most often, that means that they are unwilling to help unrepresented people get into court or respond to a lawsuit. (Imagine if IRS clerks refused to answer questions about how to file a tax return.)

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.

IAALS recently released two new reports focused on the experiences of self-represented litigants in the family court system.  Cases Without Counsel: Research on Experiences of Self-Representation in U.S. Family Court which explores the issues from the litigants' perspective.  Cases Without Counsel: Our Recommendations after Listening to the Litigants outlines recommendations for courts, legal service providers, and communities to best serve self-represented litigants in family cases.
Lawyers and their bar associations who do get a glimmer of the access problem tend to think that it's strictly a money issue. They focus their efforts on pro bono services or what legal services programs still exist. This clearly confuses the forest for the trees. Poor and rich alike have a right to use the courts without an intermediary. Or to use a popular means of expressing a fundamental point: It's the monopoly, stupid. It probably is no coincidence that by directing their efforts towards the poor, lawyers are addressing the access problem only for people who can't afford to pay lawyers.
62. See, for example, Robert Bacharach and Lyn Entzeroth, Judicial Advocacy in Pro Se Litigation: A Return to Neutrality, 42 Ind L Rev 19, 34–35 (2009) (arguing that “ad hoc” rules applied to pro se litigants often end up disadvantaging rather than aiding pro se litigants, and specifically describing how attempts by judges to help pro se litigants make initial claims could lead to more dismissals of those claims, thus threatening their pauper status).

18. See, for example, Gagnon v Scarpelli, 411 US 778, 789 (1973) (discussing how differences between criminal trials and civil proceedings, such as lack of a state prosecutor and less formal procedure, eliminate the need for a categorical guarantee of a right to counsel for defendants in some civil proceedings even when a loss might lead to their incarceration).


Courts have implemented a number of different programs and procedures to assist pro se litigants. For example, the 2011 FJC Survey revealed that twenty-five districts allowed pro se law clerks to directly communicate with pro se litigants about their cases; thirty-five districts allowed pro se litigants to electronically access information about the docket sheet, pleadings, and more through case management/electronic case filing (CM/ECF); nineteen disseminated information about programs for pro se litigants outside the court, such as in public libraries; and ten provided software specifically designed to help pro se litigants prepare their proceedings.66 These types of reforms mirror those suggested by the Supreme Court in Turner:67 for example, providing notice to pro se civil litigants of important issues affecting the case and using forms to solicit relevant information. Likewise, giving access to the docket sheet and pleadings through CM/ECF and allowing communication with a pro se law clerk somewhat fulfills the Supreme Court’s suggestion to increase efforts to provide pro se litigants with notice. The pro se software typically helps simplify filing and participation in civil proceedings, similar to forms that would solicit relevant information.
In the same vein of using your body, working out--even for just ten minutes a day-- can do wonders for clearing up your mind. When we work out, as I'm sure you know, our bodies emit endorphins that allow us to feel happy--even if we can't explain why. If you don't have time to squeeze in a full-body workout or some substantial cardio that day, just do a couple jumping jacks or take a brisk walk around the block. How much better--and more confident--you feel will amaze you.
I've spent a lot of time sending accessibility complaints to the DOJ for the "mediation process", which is supposed to be a faster way to get better compliance. No response. I waited and got no response. I'm still waiting for, at the very least, a letter confirming that they received the things, let alone tell me what action, if any, they would be taking. Nothing.

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United States federal courts created the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system to obtain case and docket information from the United States district courts, United States courts of appeals, and United States bankruptcy courts.[68] The system, managed by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, allows lawyers and self-represented clients to obtain documents entered in the case much faster than regular mail.[68] Several federal courts published general guidelines for pro se litigants and Civil Rights complaint forms.[69][70][71][72]
133. For example, this Comment does not consider how many resources would be required to enact civil Gideon nor whether they could be better used elsewhere. It also does not consider whether civil Gideon itself would be effective at improving civil pro se outcomes. While the experimental literature discussed earlier suggests that access to counsel improves case outcomes for pro se litigants, it is unclear whether a similar quality of counsel would be provided in a civil Gideon world. Indeed, the success of Gideon in the criminal context is a hotly debated subject, with many scholars considering it a disappointment. For an example of a scholar who considers Gideon a disappointment, see generally Erwin Chemerinsky, Lessons from Gideon, 122 Yale L J 2676 (2013).
Finally, one other potential policy implication suggested by this Comment is that expanded access to counsel for certain pro se litigants may be an attractive option. This Comment does not fully analyze the potential costs or benefits of civil Gideon and accordingly comes to no conclusion about its overall merits.133 However, many commentators have opposed civil Gideon partially on the grounds that pro se reforms at the trial court level could be a cheaper, but still effective, alternative.134 The Supreme Court has suggested a similar belief.135 But while not totally conclusive for the reasons described above, this Comment indicates that those reforms have not had the kind of impact on case outcomes that increased access to counsel might have. Because these reforms do not yet appear to be a viable and effective alternative to civil Gideon, this Comment suggests that improved case outcomes may be better achieved through expanded access to counsel than through pro se reforms.
This Part discusses trends in civil pro se litigation in federal district courts. It examines several important characteristics of pro se litigation: the volume, typical outcomes, and typical types of suits brought by pro se litigants. It then describes some implications of this data and thus helps contextualize the empirical analyses of pro se reforms that Parts III and IV present.
If you’re considering unbundled legal services, shop for your attorney with the same care as you would if you were hiring a lawyer to handle your entire case. That is, you need to investigate a lawyer’s qualifications, competence, and diligence. You also have to consider the cost of unbundled services, including the lawyer’s fee and additional expenses, such as fees for paralegals, investigators, and experts.
Why are the courts so unfriendly to the self-represented? They weren't always that way; in the first 100 years of our history, the courts dealt equally with all comers. But in the late 19th and early 20th century, the courts came to serve the needs and interests of the legal profession, which took control of them and built a monopoly over who can appear before them as advocates.
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Table 4 suggests that, like the other pro se reforms that Part III considers, the pro se reforms in EDNY have not been effective in improving case outcomes for pro se litigants. The coefficient on the dummy variable indicating whether the EDNY pro se reforms were instituted is -0.59, and the 95 percent confidence interval suggests that there is some nonzero negative effect when no controls are instituted in the first model in column one.128 The results are similar for the second and third models except that, once all districts are controlled for, the negative impact of the reform is statistically significant. When dummies are introduced corresponding to the year of each case filing, this negative effect disappears and the fourth and fifth models indicate no statistically significant impact from the reform. Including the full set of controls for year and district, the 95 percent confidence interval suggests that the reforms in EDNY had an impact of somewhere between -0.43 percent and 0.51 percent on the win rates for pro se litigants, with a statistically insignificant mean estimated impact of 0.04 percent.129 These results suggest that pro se reforms were not effective at improving win rates for pro se litigants.
Finally, one other potential policy implication suggested by this Comment is that expanded access to counsel for certain pro se litigants may be an attractive option. This Comment does not fully analyze the potential costs or benefits of civil Gideon and accordingly comes to no conclusion about its overall merits.133 However, many commentators have opposed civil Gideon partially on the grounds that pro se reforms at the trial court level could be a cheaper, but still effective, alternative.134 The Supreme Court has suggested a similar belief.135 But while not totally conclusive for the reasons described above, this Comment indicates that those reforms have not had the kind of impact on case outcomes that increased access to counsel might have. Because these reforms do not yet appear to be a viable and effective alternative to civil Gideon, this Comment suggests that improved case outcomes may be better achieved through expanded access to counsel than through pro se reforms.
The employees of the Prothonotary's Office are not attorneys, and they are not permitted to give legal advice or show you how to process your case. Some court staff may not know the answers to all questions about court rules, procedures and practices, and because we do not want to give you incorrect information, we will not answer questions if we do not know the correct answer.
This surprisingly easy hack is one that can be done anytime, anywhere--and is rarely done enough. People underestimate the power of an erect spine or a rigid stance. Carrying yourself like you are proud to be who you are indirectly gives your brain feedback that you are indeed a lovely human, so that you subsequently positive feelings about yourself. Who knew the body could be such a powerful tool?
Both of your suggestions are very helpful. It seems that if I were to appeal, it would not be for my upcoming Motion to Dismiss, because I understand that would be an ‘interlocutory’ appeal, and therefore not allowed. I also understand your point about the Judge & OC taking a pro se litigant much more seriously and cutting the nonsense by the very presence of a court reporter. In that respect, it makes a lot of sense in that a reporter may make an appeal unnecessary if the court decides to be reasonable and fair:)
Despite courts’ and commentators’ optimism about these reforms, there has been no publicly available empirical analysis of the effects of these reforms on case outcomes in pro se litigation thus far. There is some literature discussing the impacts of pro se court reforms in a more general sense,74 but that literature does not focus on the effect on case outcomes. This Comment seeks to fill that gap by providing an initial analysis of how reforms implemented by courts thus far have impacted case outcomes for pro se litigants.75
Consolidate questions. Hourly charges are usually divided into parts of an hour, so you may be charged for more time than you actually spend. For example, if your legal coach bills in 15-minute intervals and you only talk for five minutes, you may still be charged for the whole 15. If that is your coach’s practice, it pays to gather your questions and ask them all at once, rather than calling every time you have a question.
44. Or at least foreclosing the possibility of the Supreme Court expanding the right to counsel for civil litigants. See Steinberg, 47 Conn L Rev at 788 (cited in note 9) (noting that “[t]he court unanimously rejected a guarantee of counsel, greatly disappointing civil Gideon proponents”); Barton and Bibas, 160 U Pa L Rev at 970 (cited in note 5) (noting that “Turner dealt the death blow to hopes for a federally imposed civil Gideon”).
If you have a legal dispute, you may well find yourself involved in an arbitration rather than a trial. One reason is that in many states, judges have the power to order you and your adversary to arbitrate certain kinds of disputes. Or you may have signed an agreement that provides for binding arbitration of all disputes arising under the agreement. For example, if you are an investor who believes a brokerage house violated securities laws while handling your account, a condominium owner who has filed suit against your ­condominium association for unreasonably restricting your right to remodel your unit, or a business­person who wants to sue for breach of a written contract, you may have agreed in writing (in the broker’s agreement, the condominium association’s set of rules, or the business contract) to arbitrate all ­disputes.
Beyond the difficulties specific to civil Gideon, there is also empirical uncertainty regarding the value of access to counsel. Dozens of experimental studies have attempted to shed light on the effectiveness of attorneys in various settings in aiding litigants who would otherwise be proceeding pro se.52 One 2010 meta-study conducted on a selection of prior studies suggested that representation by counsel improved a party’s odds of winning a suit by a factor between 1.19 and 13.79.53 While those numbers suggest that access to counsel probably increases a litigant’s odds of winning a case by at least some margin, the size of the range limits the value of these studies to policymakers.54 There is also debate concerning the quality of most of these studies. A 2012 article by Professor D. James Greiner and Cassandra Wolos Pattanayak looked at dozens of previous studies to quantify the added value of access to counsel and found almost all of those studies were unable to accurately measure the effect of access to counsel.55
  There is a kind of greatness which does not depend upon fortune; it is a certain manner that distinguishes us, and which seems to destine us for great things; it is the value we insensibly set upon ourselves; it is by this quality that we gain the deference of other men, and it is this which commonly raises us more above them, than birth, rank, or even merit itself.

Narrow exceptions to this principle have also been suggested by other courts in the United States. For example, according to one district court a state-licensed attorney who is acting as pro se may collect attorney's fees when he represents a class (of which he is a member) in a class action lawsuit,[53] or according to another court represents a law firm of which he is a member.[54] In each of those instances, a non-attorney would be barred from conducting the representation altogether. One district court found that this policy does not prevent a pro se attorney from recovering fees paid for consultations with outside counsel.[55] Pro se who are not state-licensed attorneys cannot bring up a class action lawsuit.[22]
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