Clerk’s staff and judges in Brooklyn now refer pro se litigants to a new on-site center called the Pro Se Legal Assistance Project. There, a small legal staff from the New York City Bar Justice Center helps clients more effectively pursue their cases. The center assists with strategizing, document drafting and procedural guidance, but does not directly represent litigants in court.
Do your homework and educate the court. It is important, at the outset of a case, for trial counsel to determine if he or she is litigating against a wolf in sheep’s clothing. “When the pro se litigant is really an expert litigant, the court’s sympathy for his presumed inexpertise diminishes markedly.” Scott L. Garland, “Avoiding Goliath’s Fate: Defeating a Pro Se Litigant,” Litigation, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Winter 1998), at 45, 50 (1998). A search of the county or state docket may reveal that the pro se party has actually been involved in numerous lawsuits and maybe has even been deemed a vexatious litigant. Armed with this knowledge, counsel is better equipped to handle both interacting with the self-represented party and convincing the court that the pro se party’s failure to follow the rules warrants sanctions.
When you interview a potential legal coach, ask about all fees and costs—including the initial interview. It obviously defeats your purpose if you have to spend more to consult a legal coach than you would to hire a lawyer to handle your entire case. Typically, lawyers use hourly, fixed, or contingency fee arrangements. Most likely, someone serving as your legal coach will charge you by the hour.
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.

My question is: Can I serve my soon to be ex-wife a Discovery request even though I’m pro se and representing myself? I was served with a request from her attorney after our hearing for temporary alimony and child support and I want to counter act with a request as well. Her attorney is taking full advantage of my pro se circumstances and incompetent knowledge of divorce law as she should. I don’t want this to be an easy win for her when I have evidence that can work in my favor. I just need to find the best way to get it in front of the judge without being bullied in the court room. I don’t know my rights as a pro se litigant and I need as much advice as possible. I picked up her financial affidavit from the clerks office and she’s leaving out a lot of income that needs to be uncovered in my case. The issue is being overwhelmed by all of her attorney deadlines and demands which sidetracks my course of action to respond in my defense appropriately.
Courts across the country are increasing the resources available to the surge of pro se litigants attempting to navigate the judicial system. Courts are not only addressing the legal and procedural obstacles facing pro se litigants, but they are also focusing on “sociological [and] psychological aspects of how unrepresented litigants feel about the overall litigation experience.” Id. at 3. Likewise, attorneys, and civil trial lawyers in particular, must be cautious of the challenges and special considerations involving pro se litigants.

While most litigants are plaintiffs, about ten percent are defendants. The legal challenges facing the clinic’s visitors are varied and diverse: for example, clinic visitors have included an immigrant woman sued by a hospital for payment of her late husband’s medical bills and threatened with having her wages garnished; a woman who sued the police after her home was broken into by police with drawn weapons while her toddler granddaughter was playing on the floor; and a woman who sued her employer for sex discrimination and through mediation received a five-figure settlement.


To process this dataset, first I eliminated all cases filed before January 1, 1998; the analysis in this Comment considers only cases filed after that date. After that, I dropped the following sets of cases: all cases from non-Article III district courts; all cases with a “local question” as the nature of the suit; all cases that are currently still pending and lack a termination date; all cases that have missing values for the case disposition; all observations that have missing values for the nature of the suit; a variety of cases that have a nature of suit variable indicating that the suits are of a peculiar or inconsequential variety;138 certain categories of suits that have the government as a party;139 and cases that are typically filed by prisoners and are considered “prisoner pro se litigation.”140


Pro se means that you are representing yourself in court, without a lawyer. Another term is self-represented litigant. If you represent yourself in a family matter, the court will ask you to attend a Pro Se Education Program. The program helps you understand court procedures and the forms you need to file with the court. Classes are free and open to the public.
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.
The Connecticut Supreme Court narrowed criminal defendant's right to self representation, stating that "we are free to adopt for mentally ill or mentally incapacitated defendants who wish to represent themselves at trial a competency standard that differs from the standard for determining whether such a defendant is competent to stand trial". A Senior Assistant State's Attorney explained that the new standard essentially allows judges to consider whether the defendants are competent enough to perform the skills needed to defend themselves, including composing questions for voir dire and witnesses.[27][28]
Following Gideon, legal activists began a push to extend the right to counsel into the civil sphere. Advocates argued that the right to counsel should be extended to civil cases in which the litigants’ essential rights were at stake.36 Those activists have had limited success; the Supreme Court has declined to find a right to counsel in civil litigation. In one notable case, Lassiter v
Going to court is never an enjoyable experience. With the substantial cost of attorney fees, having to gather a significant amount of evidence, and having to spend lengthy amounts of time in the lawyer’s office, fighting for your legal rights becomes overwhelming. There is a solution, however. Pro-Se Litigation is a type of legal strategy in which you represent yourself in civil suits. Luckily, there is hope; you…
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.

One of the most important aspects of pro se litigation in federal district courts is that pro se litigants fare extremely poorly. This is generally understood in the literature.82 However, the magnitude of the disparity between pro se and represented litigants is not always highlighted. Accordingly, this Section presents statistics on typical outcomes for represented and pro se litigants in trial. Tables 2.2 and 2.3 show the win rates of plaintiffs and defendants in cases that reach a final judgment based on whether both parties are represented, the plaintiff is proceeding pro se, or the defendant is proceeding pro se.
This book can guide you through nearly every kind of trial in every court system (state or federal) because the litigation process is remarkably uniform throughout all of them. In part, this is because federal courts and most state courts share a “common law” heritage—a way of trying cases that came over from England and developed along with the country. And, in part, it is because many local procedures are consistent with national legal codes (sets of rules and regulations).

Over the next thirty years, the Supreme Court slowly expanded the right to counsel for criminal defendants. Shortly after Powell, in Johnson v Zerbst,23 the Supreme Court held that the Sixth Amendment protects the right to counsel for all criminal defendants in federal courts.24 Additionally, the Court held that, when the accused “is not represented by counsel and has not competently and intelligently waived his constitutional right” to counsel, any criminal conviction will be ruled unconstitutional as a Sixth Amendment violation.25 The Supreme Court initially declined to extend Zerbst to all criminal cases in state courts, instead reaffirming, as it held in Powell, that the right to counsel was guaranteed only in capital cases in state courts. In Betts v Brady,26 the Court declined to overturn a robbery conviction even though the trial court had refused the defendant’s request for the assistance of counsel, holding that states were not constitutionally mandated to provide adequate counsel for state trials in noncapital cases.27


Moreover, this Comment assesses the effects of reforms in federal district courts aimed at helping pro se litigants. It suggests that, despite widespread optimism from numerous stakeholders in the American legal community, reforms to federal district courts intended to improve the pro se litigation process have thus far had a negligible impact on the outcomes of pro se litigation. If the goal is to improve case outcomes for pro se litigants, or to replace the potential positive impact of increased access to counsel at a lower cost, the types of reforms undertaken thus far appear to have been unsuccessful.
Under New York Rule of Professional Conduct 1.2, as part of getting informed client consent, lawyers must disclose the reasonably foreseeable consequences of limiting the scope of representation. If it’s reasonably foreseeable that during the course of representation, additional legal services may be necessary, limited-scope lawyers must tell clients that they may need to hire separate counsel, which could result in delay, additional expense, and complications.
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.
There is every reason to believe that the number of pro se litigants involved in litigation in federal and state courts will continue to rise in the coming years, especially given the courts’ focus on increasing access to pro se parties. Along with this increase, the challenges facing the judicial system and trial counsel involving unrepresented parties will continue to rise, requiring increasingly careful consideration. However, armed with the best practices, trial counsel can help alleviate some of the challenges both sides of the aisle face.
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.
Melville’s last novel was met mostly with ignorance. Perhaps it was Melville’s form and style, summed by his own words, “There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the true method.” Though more true of Moby Dick than The Confidence Man, I suspect readers still didn’t quite know what to make of a novel that, despite being orderly by comparison, was nearly three-quarters dialog; without a discerna ...more
There are a few potential omitted variables that this analysis is unable to capture. One possible issue is changing caseloads in each district over time. If the composition of EDNY’s pro se docket shifted in a different way than New York’s other district courts in the years surrounding the reform, that may hide the impact of EDNY’s reforms. Another possibility is that noncourt legal actors may have changed their strategies in response to EDNY reforms. If, for example, outside legal aid clinics started shifting their resources to non-EDNY courts in response to this reform, possibly because those clinics knew that pro se litigants would receive adequate assistance in EDNY due to the reforms, that may also mask the impact of these reforms in EDNY. Finally, because this analysis compares the outcomes of pro se litigation in EDNY with outcomes of pro se litigation in the other New York district courts, if those district courts also made improvements to the pro se litigation process during this time period, the analysis might understate the effect of the EDNY reforms.
68. Table 1A records the responses of clerks’ offices to the question “What are the most effective measures your district has implemented to date to help the clerk’s office, prisoner pro se litigants, and nonprisoner pro se litigants?” under the sections “Measures that help nonprisoner pro se litigants.” Importantly, this is separated from “Measures that help the clerk’s office” and “Measures that help prisoner pro se litigants.” The responses to those latter questions differ meaningfully from the responses concerning measures effective at helping nonprisoner pro se litigants. The chief judges were similarly asked to separate measures that helped nonprisoner pro se litigants from measures that helped the court or prisoner pro se litigants. See Stienstra, Bataillon, and Cantone, Assistance to Pro Se Litigants in U.S. District Courts at *15, 17, 35, 54, 61 (cited in note 11).
In 1963, the Supreme Court broke from precedent and found the right to counsel to be a “fundamental safeguard[ ] of liberty” guaranteed to all criminal defendants by the Constitution.28 In the landmark case Gideon v Wainwright,29 Clarence Earl Gideon was charged in Florida state court with breaking and entering with intent to commit petty larceny.30 Gideon appeared alone in court and requested a court-appointed attorney to assist his case. The Florida court declined, as Florida did not provide counsel for criminal defendants in noncapital cases.31 After granting certiorari,32 the Supreme Court held that the Due Process Clause requires states to provide counsel in noncapital criminal cases, overturning Betts. The Court focused on the “fundamental” nature of the right, comparing it favorably to rights like freedom of speech and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, and the Court held that the Due Process Clause prohibited states from violating the right.33 This holding, along with its extension to misdemeanors in Argersinger v Hamlin,34 established the modern right to counsel in all criminal cases.35
85. Although it’s difficult to pinpoint the factors most responsible for the unfavorable outcomes for many or most pro se litigants, some issues that many district judges cite in explaining the typical challenges of pro se litigants include: pro se plaintiffs’ lack of ability to write legally comprehensible pleadings or submissions, lack of ability to respond to legal motions in fruitful ways, lack of knowledge about relevant legal precedents, issues with timeliness in the legal process, and failure to understand the legal consequences of their actions. For a more complete list of issues that judges perceive pro se litigants face, see Stienstra, Bataillon, and Cantone, Assistance to Pro Se Litigants in U.S. District Courts at *21–23 (cited in note 11).
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

This is a nonprofit organization which provides low income people with representation in civil matters which constitute emergencies, such as loss of income, shelter, and medical care. In addition, this office has PA Legal Aid Network pamphlets which contain information on many legal situations such as divorce, custody, child support and foreclosure.
Following Gideon, legal activists began a push to extend the right to counsel into the civil sphere. Advocates argued that the right to counsel should be extended to civil cases in which the litigants’ essential rights were at stake.36 Those activists have had limited success; the Supreme Court has declined to find a right to counsel in civil litigation. In one notable case, Lassiter v

University of Illinois Law School's Professor Robert Lawless, a national expert in personal credit and bankruptcy, showed that, the rate of non-attorney filings in bankruptcy courts by debtors was 13.8% for chapter 13 cases, and 10.1% for chapter 7 cases. The rate was as high as 30% to 45% for major urban areas, such as California and New York city. US Bankruptcy Court of Arizona reported 23.14% cases filed pro se in October 2011, up from 20.61% a year before.[41]
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