Although it's a little cheesy, having an alter ego of sorts is a very helpful way to boost self-confidence. If we pretend like we're someone else--strong, willful, self-confident--we never have to subject ourselves to the fear of our personal worth not being enough for others. We should not necessarily lie about who we are, or invent false facts, but instead find another mode of existence in which we may tap into to be comfortable in our own skin.
One more effective path might look toward a growing body of research on more effective ways to provide self-help resources and literature to pro se litigants. A recent article by Professors Greiner, Dalié Jiménez, and Lois R. Lupica details their endeavors to develop a theory of the issues that potential pro se civil litigants would face in the legal process. Their article then draws on recent developments in a number of fields, such as education, psychology, and public health, to imagine what truly effective self-help materials would look like and how they might help pro se litigants fare better at trial.132 Courts and commentators could try to enhance the effectiveness of their reform efforts by drawing on this and other similar research. Using this kind of research to provide effective educational handbooks or to help courts communicate in ways that are more useful to pro se litigants could enhance the types of pro se reforms analyzed in this Comment.
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, or according to another court represents a law firm of which he is a member. 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. Pro se who are not state-licensed attorneys cannot bring up a class action lawsuit.
However, the few reliable studies conducted thus far tend to suggest that providing access to counsel significantly improves outcomes for civil litigants. Greiner and Pattanayak identified two prior studies that were properly conducted to evaluate the effects of access to counsel. While noting it was premature to draw conclusions, they pointed out that one of those studies found that access to counsel was effective in improving case outcomes, and the other study found it effective in improving case outcomes in one of its two experimental settings.56 A follow-up experiment by Greiner, Pattanayak, and Jonathan Hennessy found that the assistance of counsel led to a significant improvement in litigation outcomes compared to more piecemeal assistance.57 Specifically, they found that, from a sample of litigants facing eviction in a district court, about one-third retained their rental units after receiving unbundled legal assistance—legal aid short of an
[p]ro se litigation is difficult for us to handle at least in part because it doesn’t fit into the neat box of our traditional system of litigation, the adversarial method of resolving disputes. That system assumes that the parties know the law, are adept at procedure and the rules of evidence, and can marshal significant facts, present their side of the case to the factfinder thoroughly and lance the arguments of the opponent. But pro se litigants are capable of little if any of that.
Additionally, there is no obvious way to test the consistency or validity of these survey results. If different courts implemented substantively different reforms but mapped them to the same policies when answering the questionnaire, these results may underestimate the effectiveness of certain policies. For example, if one district court allowed pro se litigants to conduct extremely formal and limited communications with pro se clerks, while another district court allowed pro se litigants who showed up at the court to receive extensive counseling from pro se clerks, both district courts may report that they provided “direct communications with pro se clerks.”99 These two policies may be sufficiently distinct that they have very different influences on the outcomes of pro se litigation. The available survey data does not provide a reliable way to tease out these types of distinctions, and they are grouped together in the analysis below. Similarly, if overburdened district courts were simply sloppy in their survey responses, this methodology may in turn underestimate the results of these policies.
The empirical findings in Parts II, III, and IV have a number of potentially important implications for the future of pro se litigation. However, before considering the policy implications, this Comment must reiterate the limits of this analysis. First, this analysis centers only on case outcomes. Further analysis—for example, a survey-based analysis that asks litigants how they feel after they went through the litigation process—may reveal substantial benefits stemming from pro se reforms that this study does not find. Second, this analysis shows only that the reforms highlighted throughout this analysis have not impacted case outcomes for nonprisoner pro se litigants on average across courts. However, it might be the case that certain courts have been much more successful in implementing these reforms than others, and this analysis masks those successes. Moreover, limitations on survey data, coupled with the fact that litigation frequently takes years to resolve, mean that most of the data analyzed in this
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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
Know the Rules of the Road. Before filing a lawsuit, you must carefully read your state’s code of civil procedure and the court’s local rules. If you also have federal claims and wish to file in federal court, then you must read the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as well as the particular district’s local rules. In addition, some judges have their own rules called local local rules. You must familiarize yourself with these rules as well.
Also, I don’t know what this obligation is to give access to justice that is apparently on the shoulders of individual lawyers. I only know of the 6th Amendment right to an attorney for defendants in a criminal trial, in which case any lawyer could be appointed to represent a defendant; I know of no other obligation to make legal services available to everyone on demand. But you can’t seriously tell me that you don’t pit pro se litigants against lawyers and publish the articles you do. I know some lawyers who are pretty burnt out dealing with pro se nonsense, and I know some who are more generous to those who play lawyer for themselves, but when your opposing counsel is a pro se litigant who can’t distinguish you from your client, or doesn’t understand why you’re representing your client vigorously and then goes on the defense, you wish you could just tell them what is obvious to you: it’s not about them. For example, I might be hesitant to encourage Tanya here to represent herself since she doesn’t seem to understand the difference between pro bono and contingency and statutes and case law, and that she hasn’t actually found any case law yet before deciding to pursue her lawsuit on her own and presenting what may be a matter of first impression, but that’s not my business…
102. The types of cases that typically result in final judgment, and are evaluated here, are cases that are disposed of following judgment on default, consent, motion before trial, jury verdict, directed verdict, court trial, arbitral award, or other resolution. Cases disposed of via transfer or remand or dismissed due to settlement, voluntary dismissal, lack of jurisdiction, or want of prosecution are discarded in this analysis.
“I’m assuming you’re a lawyer, my friend. So I’m curious about your language and the notion that our commentary here represents “far more” of a disservice to pro se litigants than do lawyers. You’ve got a pretty low opinion of your profession.” See, this is exactly the kind of crap I’m talking about, and what’s worse is that you can literally read the entire entry that I wrote and see that I did NOT write that the commentary here represents more of a disservice to pro se litigants than lawyers do a disservice to pro se litigants. However, this entire article is rife with misrepresentations. You give a false definition of litigation privilege. You call normal parts of litigation lawyer’s tricks, like requests to admit (which are in state rules of civil procedure, and pro se litigants can send requests to admit, too). What you call lawyer’s crap in negotiations is just what you have to expect in a negotiation whether or not you’re a lawyer. Your description of stare decisis is deceptive: appellate courts don’t “give excuses” for not overturning lower court’s decisions. I mean, I get it: if you didn’t feed this David-and-Goliath complex, you wouldn’t have a marketing angle. I don’t think that pro se litigants can’t handle small cases that don’t require a lot of discovery or witnesses, and when the facts are on their side, why not? And yes, you should always have a court reporter if possible, but if you plan to make an appeal, you should also know what to say, particularly what to object to on the record, for an appeal. I don’t think that encouraging paranoid beliefs about litigation and lawyers is helpful. From this side, dealing with a pro se litigant who has a chip on their shoulder, thinks everything the lawyer does is to hurt them personally, that the fact that we don’t break attorney-client privilege simply because they want us to is shady business, that upholding our duty to represent our clients is a personal attack and such makes me think that you don’t know what you want. Do you want to go to court acting as your own lawyer, thus being treated like a lawyer and held to the same standards and dealing with the same things new lawyers deal with (even if you screw up. Ask lawyers about their first court appearances), or do you want to not be treated as a lawyer and have the rules bent just for you?
Await Defendant's Answer. After being served with the complaint, the defendant will have a prescribed amount of time to file an answer. In California, a defendant usually must file a written response within 30 calendar days of being served. In Federal Court, a defendant only has 20 days. A defendant’s answer will typically include defenses, such as truth or expiration of the statute of limitations.
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).
Some still remain skeptical about pro se reform. Commentators have argued that unfair advantages for pro se litigants correspond to unfair disadvantages for their opponents in civil proceedings, that tweaking the court system specifically for pro se litigants undermines the rule of law, and that reforms may lead courts to devote more resources to cases that often prove frivolous.61 Other detractors of trial-court reform for pro se litigants have opposed it on opposite grounds, arguing that these reforms may be counterproductive and harm pro se litigants62 or that they don’t go far enough and that civil Gideon is needed to fully protect the rights of pro se litigants.63
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.