132. See generally D. James Greiner, Dalié Jiménez, and Lois R. Lupica, Self-Help, Reimagined, 92 Ind L J 1119 (2017). It is difficult to synthesize their conclusions into a simple path toward providing pro se litigants with effective assistance, but they emphasize in particular the need for breaking legal problems down into their constituent components, including mental, psychological, and cognitive issues, as well as identifying and implementing relevant research from nonlegal literature to address those problems. They emphasize in particular that often the “relevant tasks have little to do with formal law.” Id at 1172.
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The center’s approach, known as “limited-scope legal assistance,” can fill an important void. Most federal courts devote substantial resources to pro se litigants, such as handbooks and staff time answering process questions, and pro se staff attorneys help judges process cases. But court staff may not give legal advice to litigants, and although private lawyers offer some volunteer assistance, they cannot meet demand.
43. Id at 447–48 (citations omitted). Note that safeguards, such as additional forms to elicit relevant information or additional notice about critical issues, are potentially similar, though not identical, to reforms such as giving pro se litigants access to an electronic version of the docket or allowing additional communication with a clerk at the court (the reforms analyzed in Part III).
Table 3C relies on the same data but considers the win rates of different types of litigants based on the total number of policies that the district court has implemented rather than which particular policies the court has implemented. Table 3C thus seeks to test the slightly different hypothesis that there may be a cumulative benefit from implementing these policies even if none is individually impactful.
Comment—appear to have no more than a 1 percent impact on the percent of pro se litigants that actually win cases in court. Perhaps more likely, they do not actually impact case outcomes at all, and the 1 percent variation is simply noise. Regardless of whether they account for some small improvement, however, these results show that pro se reforms are not significantly moving the needle in terms of case outcomes. Any potential improvement is substantially smaller than what the experimental literature suggests would result from improved access to counsel.112 Hence, compared to pro se win rates with a lawyer, these reforms cannot be considered a meaningful substitute for access to counsel even if they yield a small improvement, at least insofar as the goal is to help pro se litigants win more cases.
After conducting an empirical study of pro se felony defendants, I conclude that these defendants are not necessarily either ill-served by the decision to represent themselves or mentally ill. ... In state court, pro se defendants charged with felonies fared as well as, and arguably significantly better than, their represented counterparts ... of the 234 pro se defendants for whom an outcome was provided, just under 50 percent of them were convicted on any charge. ... for represented state court defendants, by contrast, a total of 75 percent were convicted of some charge. ... Only 26 percent of the pro se defendants ended up with felony convictions, while 63 percent of their represented counterparts were convicted of felonies ... in federal court ... the acquittal rate for pro se defendants is virtually identical to the acquittal rate for represented defendants.
According to the National Center for State Courts 2006 report, in the United States, many state court systems and the federal courts are experiencing an increasing proportion of pro se litigants. Estimates of the pro se rate of family law overall averaged 67% in California, 73% in Florida's large counties, and 70% in some Wisconsin counties. In San Diego, for example, the number of divorce filings involving at least one pro se litigant rose from 46% in 1992 to 77% in 2000, in Florida from 66% in 1999 to 73% in 2001. California reports in 2001 that over 50% of family matters filings in custody and visitation are by pro se litigants. In the U.S. Federal Court system for the year 2013 approximately 27% of civil actions filed, 92% of prisoner petitions and 11% of non-prisoner petitions were filed by pro se litigants. Defendants in political trials tend to participate in the proceedings more than defendants in non-political cases, as they may have greater ability to depart from courtroom norms to speak to political and moral issues.