63. As an example, pro se reforms could be counterproductive in a streamlined pro se office at a district court that consistently suggests dismissing pro se cases before a full hearing. For a more detailed discussion of entities that have called for civil Gideon rather than pro se trial court reform, and the contexts in which they have done so, see Greiner, Pattanayak, and Hennessy, 126 Harv L Rev at 906–07 (cited in note 47).
One important takeaway from this Comment, related to the limitations described above, is the importance of additional studies into the effectiveness of other reform measures, especially reform measures undertaken in courts other than federal district courts. As previously mentioned, other courts throughout the country have experimented with ways to help pro se litigants.130 Although the particular reforms analyzed here appear to have been ineffective, other reforms undertaken by other courts might achieve better results. With sufficient empirical legwork, successful reforms can be identified, and other courts can learn from those successes. Although courts likely attempt to learn from each other’s practices, without empirical validation of these techniques, there’s a risk that the blind are leading the blind. More empirical studies could help show the way.
One important takeaway from this Comment, related to the limitations described above, is the importance of additional studies into the effectiveness of other reform measures, especially reform measures undertaken in courts other than federal district courts. As previously mentioned, other courts throughout the country have experimented with ways to help pro se litigants.130 Although the particular reforms analyzed here appear to have been ineffective, other reforms undertaken by other courts might achieve better results. With sufficient empirical legwork, successful reforms can be identified, and other courts can learn from those successes. Although courts likely attempt to learn from each other’s practices, without empirical validation of these techniques, there’s a risk that the blind are leading the blind. More empirical studies could help show the way.
Individual lawyers almost always find it difficult to actually see the bias against the self-represented that pervades our courts, just as a few years ago, judges who complimented woman lawyers on their looks were shocked when they were labeled as sexist. Few lawyers are able or willing to come to terms with the fact that a significant portion of their livelihood is based squarely on barriers to self-representation that the courts erect and enforce.
The Judiciary Act of 1789, one of those laws, states that "in all courts of the United States, the parties may plead and manage their own causes personally." It follows that federal judges must respect the pro se litigants' right to represent themselves. Thus, the Supreme Court and Congress have means to remedy the problems with federal judges who disrespect and ignore the rights of pro se litigants.
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.
Having said that, lawyers are trained and experienced in the fields of their practice. In litigation, a lawyer will know the rules of procedure, how things are customarily done in the particular court, the substantive laws that apply to the case, and appellate rulings that may be applicable. Lawyers also have the advantage of being able to give their clients an outside look at the case (clients usually are overly confident that they are correct and that they judge/jury will believe everything that they say and nothing that the other party says). And lawyers are usually much more skilled at negotiating settlements and have the benefit of experience to guide them on fair value of the case.
Conversely, pro se litigants who make mistakes lose day in and day out, even with minor infractions. This is most often due to lack of knowledge, but judicial bias and lawyer tricks add another layer of peril. Lawyers know how to avoid default judgments, dismissals, and summary judgments. Pro se litigants rarely do. Lawyers skillfully “handle” pro se opposition. Most pro se litigants don’t handle lawyers or their own cases. In the end, most lose and they do so very quickly.
Table 3A suggests that the various policies used to assist pro se litigants in federal district courts have not substantially affected win rates for pro se plaintiffs. When both parties are represented, plaintiff win rates gravitate around 50 percent. When only the plaintiff is pro se, the plaintiff win rate hovers between 2 and 5 percent. All of the policies registered in the FJC Survey classified as “programs and procedures to assist pro se litigants”—the types of policies discussed throughout this
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
This book is designed both to increase your overall understanding of the litigation process and to provide detailed advice about each stage of trial. Unless you are ­already in the midst of trial and need to refer to a particular chapter immediately, begin preparing to represent yourself by read­ing through the book as a whole. As you become familiar with the litigation process, you will understand the significance of procedures and techniques that may initially seem peculiar or unnecessary.
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.
Variations Possible.  A form may call for more or less information than a particular court requires.  The fact that a form asks for certain information does not mean that every court or a particular court requires it.  And if the form does not ask for certain information, a particular court might still require it.  Consult the rules and caselaw that govern in the court where you are filing the pleading.
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