An individual’s right to represent himself or herself in federal court is expressly codified in 28 U.S.C. § 1654 (2018), which provides: “In all courts of the United States the parties may plead and conduct their own cases . . . therein.” Similarly, many states have codified the rights of pro se litigants in their respective constitutions and statutes. Drew A. Swank, “The Pro Se Phenomenon,” 19 BYU J. Pub. L. 373, 375 (2005). Indeed, according to the Supreme Court, there is “no evidence that the . . . Framers ever doubted the right of self-representation, or imagined that this right might be considered inferior to the right of assistance of counsel.” Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806, 832 (1975).
“One statistic asserts that 90 percent of Americans will face a lawsuit at some point in their lives,” Zeidwig points out. “Yes, it’s possible to represent yourself in court, but you need to know specifically what to do in order to be best prepared. For example, how much time you have to file documents and such is rigid — if you miss the deadline, you’re in serious trouble.”
In order to evaluate the effects of different pro se reform measures undertaken by district courts, this Section compares the win rates of pro se litigants in courts that have enacted each of the reforms discussed in the FJC Survey with the win rates of litigants in the districts that have not enacted those same reforms. Table 3A compares the win rates for plaintiffs in cases in which both parties are represented with those in which either the plaintiff or defendant is pro se based on whether the district court employs a particular policy.
Serve The Complaint. Once a complaint is filed, it must be served on all defendants. Usually, a plaintiff will pay a registered process server to personally serve the defendant. Follow your state or federal rules precisely. One of the most common ways for a plaintiff, especially a pro se (federal court) or pro per (state court) litigant, to have his or her case dismissed is because of inadequate service.
5. See generally, for example, Committee on Federal Courts of the New York State Bar Association, Pro Se Litigation in the Second Circuit, 62 St John’s L Rev 571 (1988) (suggesting solutions to combat an exploding pro se docket); Benjamin H. Barton and Stephanos Bibas, Triaging Appointed-Counsel Funding and Pro Se Access to Justice, 160 U Pa L Rev 967 (2012) (arguing that there are more cost-efficient approaches to improving pro se litigation than a constitutional right to counsel in civil cases because of the considerable resources that it would require).
Most slander cases settle. This typically occurs before trial, by way of negotiations between you (or your attorney, if you are represented) and the defendant (or his or her attorney, if represented by one). Additionally, a case may settle through some form of alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation or arbitration. Occasionally, although rarely, the case may settle even before the complaint is filed because of a persuasively written demand letter.
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.