This Comment presents commentators with a perspective on the volume, types, and typical success rates of pro se litigants in federal district courts. It shows that nonprisoner pro se litigants comprise a meaningful percentage of the federal docket. Moreover, pro se litigants show up in substantial numbers across many different types of litigation, from property cases, to torts cases, to civil rights cases. However, in nearly all of those types of cases, pro se litigants fare at least several times worse than represented litigants; overall, pro se plaintiffs are less than one-tenth as likely to win cases as represented plaintiffs, whereas pro se defendants are only about one-third as likely to win cases as represented defendants.
Some pro se litigants who are federal prisoners are subject to the Prison Litigation Reform Act. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has asserted: ""For over thirteen years, the Prison Litigation Reform Act has denied access to the courts to countless prisoners who have become victims of abuse, creating a system of injustice that denies redress for prisoners alleging serious abuses, barriers that don't apply to anyone else. It is time for Congress to pass legislation to restore the courts as a needed check on prisoner abuse." 54% of judges responding to a Federal Judicial Conference survey use videoconferences for prisoner pro se hearings.:29
Though dramatic, these numbers do not necessarily imply that lack of access to counsel worsens case outcomes for pro se litigants. There are a number of plausible explanations for low win rates by pro se litigants even if pro se litigants are not disadvantaged in court. For instance, and likely most significantly, because lawyers frequently work on a contingency fee basis, a lawyer is more likely to agree to work on behalf of a plaintiff with a strong case than a plaintiff with a weak case.84 The stronger the plaintiff’s case, the higher the expected damages and expected payout for the lawyer. Hence, it is less likely that strong cases proceed pro se.
Your state’s “Rules of Court.” These are rules that set the procedures and deadlines that the courts in a state must follow. Generally, states have separate sets of rules for different kinds of courts. For example, a state may have one set of rules for its municipal courts (courts that try cases involving limited amounts of money), another for its superior courts (courts that try cases involving higher amounts of money), and still others for its appellate courts (courts that review the decisions of municipal and superior courts). All the rules may, however, be published in a single book. Some states also have separate sets of rules for specialized courts, such as family law courts, which hear cases involving divorce, child custody, and child support; or probate courts, which hear cases involving wills and trusts.
Although this analysis focuses on case outcomes, those are by no means the only potential metric for analyzing the impact of pro se reforms. Another relevant, tangible measure is the length of proceedings. Pro se reforms have the potential to greatly expedite pro se proceedings, helping to ensure that litigants are able to move on with their lives as quickly as possible. Shortened proceedings are valuable in their own right without impacting case outcomes. Less tangibly, it may be the case that pro se reforms improve the litigation experience for pro se litigants and help ensure that they feel they have had a fair hearing in court. Increasing satisfaction with court proceedings is a significant benefit to litigants and also boosts the public perception of the legal system—both valuable outcomes that would not show up in the analysis below.100
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.
Pro se legal representation (/ˌproʊ ˈsiː/ or /ˌproʊ ˈseɪ/) comes from Latin, translating to "for oneself" and literally meaning "on behalf of themselves", which basically means advocating on one's own behalf before a court or other tribunal, rather than being represented by a lawyer. This may occur in any court proceeding, whether one is the defendant or plaintiff in civil cases, and when one is a defendant in criminal cases. Pro se is a Latin phrase meaning "for oneself" or "on one's own behalf". This status is sometimes known as propria persona (abbreviated to "pro per"). In England and Wales the comparable status is that of "litigant in person".