The relative win ratios tell a similar story. There is wide variance based on the type of lawsuit being brought, but represented litigants consistently have far better outcomes than pro se litigants in court. When both parties are represented, plaintiffs win at a rate between 1.4 and 42.1 times as often as when only the defendant is represented. By contrast, a represented plaintiff is roughly 0.2 to 0.9 times as likely to win a case against a represented defendant as against a pro se defendant.91
68. Table 1A records the responses of clerks’ offices to the question “What are the most effective measures your district has implemented to date to help the clerk’s office, prisoner pro se litigants, and nonprisoner pro se litigants?” under the sections “Measures that help nonprisoner pro se litigants.” Importantly, this is separated from “Measures that help the clerk’s office” and “Measures that help prisoner pro se litigants.” The responses to those latter questions differ meaningfully from the responses concerning measures effective at helping nonprisoner pro se litigants. The chief judges were similarly asked to separate measures that helped nonprisoner pro se litigants from measures that helped the court or prisoner pro se litigants. See Stienstra, Bataillon, and Cantone, Assistance to Pro Se Litigants in U.S. District Courts at *15, 17, 35, 54, 61 (cited in note 11).
Tables 1.1 and 1.2 demonstrate that a large proportion of clerks’ offices and chief judges at district courts believe that pro se reform measures are helpful to nonprisoner pro se litigants.71 For example, the majority of clerks’ offices surveyed in the FJC Survey believe that making information and guidance tailored to pro se litigants readily available is one of the most effective measures for helping nonprisoner pro se litigants. The vast majority of responding chief judges believe handbooks and standardized materials are helpful, and about 25 percent of chief judges surveyed believe that personal assistance by the clerk’s office staff is helpful to pro se litigants. Often, these handbooks and standardized materials are extensive. For example, the Northern District of Illinois’s website currently has a thirty-five-page generalized handbook advising pro se litigants72 and specific instructions and forms for how to handle civil rights, employment discrimination, and mortgage foreclosure cases.73
We strongly recommend that you prepare a trial notebook. A trial notebook is a series of outlines covering matters such as what you must prove (or, if you are a defendant, disprove); the evidence you will use to prove (or disprove) those matters; the topics you intend to cover on direct and cross-examination; a list of the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of your witnesses; and the ­exhibits you plan to introduce into evidence. The notebook serves as your courtroom manager. You can refer to it to make sure that you do not overlook evidence you planned to offer or an argument you intended to make.
Courts are public institutions belonging to the people, and you have the right to represent yourself there. However, courts are also bureaucratic institutions with very heavy case­loads. Historically, filing clerks, courtroom clerks, court reporters, and even judges have usually preferred to deal with lawyers rather than with people who represent themselves. (When you represent yourself, you may find yourself referred to as a “pro per” or “pro se” litigant, Latin abbreviations favored by judges and lawyers.) Although the increasing number of people representing themselves is beginning to change these attitudes in some places, many court personnel ­believe (often mistakenly) that they can do their work more quickly and easily when they work with lawyers than when they work with people who are representing themselves.

"I did not have sexual relations with Monica Lowinsky."  Ms. Lowinsky's allegations involved oral sex.  The definition of sexual relations does NOT include oral sex. President Clinton never denied Ms. Lowinsky's sexual allegation....but millions thought he did!  "There is no improper relationship."  There isn't now, but WAS there?  Many of us are raised speaking and writing without precision. We fill in the gaps with what we believe is the intended meaning.  Precision in the spoken and written word will take time to learn.  


Paul Bergman is a Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law and a recipient of two University Distinguished Teaching Awards. His books include Nolo’s Deposition Handbook (with Moore, Nolo); Reel Justice: The Courtroom Goes to the Movies (Andrews & McMeel); Trial Advocacy: Inferences, Arguments, Techniques (with Moore and Binder, West Publishing Co.); Trial Advocacy in a Nutshell (West Publishing Co.); Represent Yourself in Court: How to Prepare & Try a Winning Case (with Berman, Nolo); Depositions in a Nutshell (with Moore, Binder, and Light, West Publishing); Lawyers as Counselors: A Client-Centered Approach (with Binder, Tremblay, and Weinstein, West Publishing); and Cracking the Case Method (Vandeplas Publishing). He has also published numerous articles in law journals.
Melville’s last novel was met mostly with ignorance. Perhaps it was Melville’s form and style, summed by his own words, “There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the true method.” Though more true of Moby Dick than The Confidence Man, I suspect readers still didn’t quite know what to make of a novel that, despite being orderly by comparison, was nearly three-quarters dialog; without a discerna ...more
Oftentimes, self-represented litigants become reactive when there’s a lawyer on the other side. Instead of getting ahead of things or running their own case, they let the lawyer take the lead. They spend so much time responding to discovery requests, summary judgment motions, motions to dismiss, and other filings that they don’t formulate a strategy of their own. They don’t do their own discovery or object to certain requests because they’re swamped and often intimidated. So, they’re always behind and in a constant reactive state. If a wise opponent sees how reactive you are, they can walk you right into an error. So, take control of your case. Never let a lawyer think that he’s in charge of it.
The answer to the last part of your question when you ask that If you fail to file such a motion, can you simply ask the court to declare, at the outset of trial, that the defendant, by failing to answer the admissions request, has in fact admitted certain facts which you no longer must prove at trial. By failing to file the motion as the rules require you would be jeopardizing your right to this relief. At trial the defendant’s lawyer will almost assuredly object by stating to the court that you have waived this argument since you didn’t file the motion per the Oregon Rules of Civil Procedure and in all likelihood the judge would probably agree and sustain the objection. There usually isn’t much, if any, wiggle room when it comes to compliance with the stated rules. Whenever you fail to follow a stated rule you are giving the opposing side’s lawyer ammunition to attack your argument. It would behoove you to file the motion to determine sufficiency and request a ruling deeming the matters as admitted since the defendant failed to answer.
For example, the Federal Rules of Evidence (often referred to as the FRE) govern the introduction of evidence in federal court trials. But about 40 states also use the FRE in their state court trials. And even those states that have not formally adopted the FRE have evidence rules that are quite similar to them. This means that, for the most part, trials are conducted in the same way nationwide. Another set of federal rules, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (or FRCP) apply similarly to govern procedural (rather than evidentiary) rules. Because of this basic uniformity, the book frequently refers you to ­specific rules that, even if they differ somewhat from your state’s rules, should help you understand the basic procedures that will apply to your case.

A number of commentators have trumpeted reforms at the trial court level geared toward assisting pro se litigants as a possible solution.8 These reforms usually aim to give pro se litigants access to resources and information that can help them successfully navigate the legal process, reduce their costs, or provide them with assistance from courts’ offices.9 Examples of reforms that have been implemented include providing pro se litigants with access to electronic filing systems that make it easier to file lawsuits and monitor proceedings, allowing pro se litigants to communicate with law clerks about their claims and proceedings, and publicly disseminating information about resources that may be available to pro se litigants through the court or third parties.10 Critically, these reforms can be implemented by the trial courts and their staff and do not require significant additional contributions from attorneys, clinics, or other legal institutions. Accordingly, these programs can help pro se litigants without diverting legal resources away from other causes, including indigent criminal defense. A large number of federal district courts have already implemented at least some of these procedural reforms aimed at helping pro se litigants.11

Moreover, this Comment assesses the effects of reforms in federal district courts aimed at helping pro se litigants. It suggests that, despite widespread optimism from numerous stakeholders in the American legal community, reforms to federal district courts intended to improve the pro se litigation process have thus far had a negligible impact on the outcomes of pro se litigation. If the goal is to improve case outcomes for pro se litigants, or to replace the potential positive impact of increased access to counsel at a lower cost, the types of reforms undertaken thus far appear to have been unsuccessful.
83. Table 2C simply removes cases classified as “Missing/Unknown” or “Both” from Table 2B and recalculates the percentages. All analyses of cases reaching final judgment in this Comment focus on the subset of case dispositions that commonly reach final judgment. Cases dismissed for want of prosecution, that settle, or that otherwise do not typically receive entry of final judgment on resolution are excluded from these analyses. For more discussion of the calculation methodology, see Appendix: AO Data Processing.
“Federal cases are difficult for litigants, who are anxious to begin with and understandably confused by what is a complicated legal process. Even when their cases are potentially meritorious, without legal advice it is very easy for litigants to make mistakes that compromise their cases,” said Tarnofsky. “Thanks to the support of the SDNY, the NYLAG Pro Se Clinic is off to a great start.”

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.

136. See Civil Cases Filed, Terminated, and Pending from SY 1988 to Present (Federal Judicial Center, 2017), archived at http://perma.cc/Y4CY-MVG5. Note that the data is not available for download from the Perma link. For the most recent data, see Civil Cases Filed, Terminated, and Pending from SY 1988 to Present (Federal Judicial Center, 2018), available at http://www.fjc.gov/research/idb/civil-cases-filed-terminated-and-pending-


analysis.124 The analysis below attempts only to assess the impact of the creation of the pro se office over its first five years of existence. Specific information about subsequent reforms implemented by the office is not readily available and hence not ripe for analysis. However, any such reforms may have had a different impact on case outcomes for pro se litigants and, accordingly, may indicate more promising future directions for pro se reform.

During my 17 years with Nolo Press, the nation's leading publisher of self-help law books, I have spoken with countless competent people, including many who excelled in demanding occupations--physicians, architects, teachers, dentists, inventors, physicists--who, when using Nolo books to handle their own cases, were treated like stupid children by clerks and judges. To a person, they thought they finally understood what it must often be like to be an African-American in our society. That their perception of bias was objectively accurate cannot be doubted in the face of that most deeply insulting bromide, so popular with lawyers: "He who represents himself has a fool for a client."
Acknowledging the limits described above, this Comment does find that pro se reform in federal district courts has not yet meaningfully impacted case outcomes for pro se litigants, whereas increased access to counsel has had somewhat more promising results in the experimental literature.131 The policy implications of those facts are not immediately clear. These results suggest that increased access to counsel may help pro se litigants vindicate rights; however, the wisdom of that approach depends on whether the costs of that increased access to counsel outweigh the benefits or whether there are cheaper ways to achieve those benefits. One critical question in this vein is whether there are more effective reform opportunities available to courts, because more effective reforms could still conceivably enable improved outcomes for pro se litigants at a lower cost than increased access to counsel. This Comment finds little evidence that measures thus far implemented by courts have improved case outcomes. Hence, merely renewing and expanding similar reforms does not appear to be an especially promising path forward.
From an initial look at Figure 1, no meaningful change in the outcomes of pro se litigation in EDNY appears in the years following the creation of the pro se magistrate’s office. Instead, for all district courts in the New York area, there is seemingly considerable variance in case outcomes on a yearly basis, with pro se litigants performing very similarly on average in both sets of districts before and after the pro se reform. However, Figure 1 does reflect the possibility that the percent of cases won by pro se plaintiffs in the other New York district courts trended downward more than in EDNY. But this is uncertain. With the exception of 1999, the win rates of pro se litigants are relatively similar in EDNY to New York’s other district courts.
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Congress also has a role. In extreme cases it has the power to remove judges, of course. But short of that, it can at least underscore the seriousness of the rights it established for litigants in the Judiciary Act. Whether through binding or nonbinding language on the topic, Congress can make clear that complaints about violations of the rights of pro se litigants must be taken very seriously by judicial councils.
The lack of civility among lawyers is a frequent topic at bar association meetings. Canon 7 of the American Bar Association Model Code states that a “lawyer should represent a client zealously within the bounds of the law.” Many lawyers blame an over-enthusiastic reliance on Canon 7 for what they consider a rising tide of lawyer incivility (or bullying) that characterizes modern litigation. Commonly-cited examples include:

Against this background, it doesn’t normally make sense to interpret your adversary’s offer to “talk settlement” as a sign of weakness. Nor should you be reluctant to be the one to suggest a negotiated settlement. In fact, judges, arbitrators, and mediators routinely urge adversaries to explore settlement even if previous attempts have failed. It’s a wise person who never closes the door to a reasonable settlement.


Sara J. Berman is the Director of Academic and Bar Success Programs at the nonprofit AccessLex Institute Center for Legal Education Excellence, an organization committed to understanding the barriers that impede access to law school for historically underrepresented groups and improving access to law school for all; identifying actionable strategies and public policies to increase law school affordability; and strengthening the value of legal education. Berman is the author of several bar exam and legal education books and articles, including Pass the Bar Exam: A Practical Guide to Achieving Academic & Professional Goals and Bar Exam MPT Preparation & Experiential Learning for Law Students: Interactive Performance Test Training. Before joining AccessLex, Berman worked for more than two decades in various law schools.  She has more than 15 years of experience in distance learning in legal education, and co-authored Represent Yourself in Court: How to Prepare and Try a Winning Case and The Criminal Law Handbook: Know Your Rights, Survive the System, plain English primers on the civil and criminal justice systems. More on Berman’s publications at https://ssrn.com/author=2846291 and on AccessLex publications at https://www.ssrn.com/link/AccessLex-Institute-RES.html
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
Self-Representation.—The Court has held that the Sixth Amendment, in addition to guaranteeing the right to retained or appointed counsel, also guarantees a defendant the right to represent himself. this a right the defendant must adopt knowingly and intelligently; under some circumstances the trial judge may deny the authority to exercise it, as when the defendant simply lacks the competence to make a knowing or intelligent waiver of counsel or when his self-representation is so disruptive of orderly procedures that the judge may curtail it. the essential elements of self-representation were spelled out in McKaskle v. Wiggins…
In the years since this book first appeared, the number of people representing themselves in civil court cases has continued to grow. A recent collection of statistics by the National Center for State Courts shows that the vast majority of family law cases involve at least one, and often two, self-represented parties. In California, over 4.3 million people using the courts are self-represented; in New Hampshire, 85% of civil cases in the trial court involve at least one self-represented party. Many courts report an upsurge in self-representation. (Memorandum on Pro Se Statistics, 9/25/2006, National Center for State Courts, available at www.ncsconline.org/WC/publications/memos/prosestatsmemo.htm.) Other research indicates that at least one party was self-represented in more than two-thirds of domestic relations cases in California and in nearly 90% of divorce cases in Phoenix, Arizona, and Washington, DC. (See Jona Goldschmidt, et al., Meeting the Challenge of Pro Se Litigation: A Report and Guidebook for Judges and Court Managers, A Consumer Based Approach (1998).) These studies are substantiated by many civil court administrators and judges, who estimate that the number of self-represented
Do I have the time and resources available to represent myself pro se? As you can see, there is a lot of learn before representing yourself at a child custody hearing. Parents considering pro se representation should carefully consider whether they have the time, determination, and undivided attention necessary to dedicate to this task before deciding to go it alone in court. 
Why are the courts so unfriendly to the self-represented? They weren't always that way; in the first 100 years of our history, the courts dealt equally with all comers. But in the late 19th and early 20th century, the courts came to serve the needs and interests of the legal profession, which took control of them and built a monopoly over who can appear before them as advocates.
Oftentimes, self-represented litigants become reactive when there’s a lawyer on the other side. Instead of getting ahead of things or running their own case, they let the lawyer take the lead. They spend so much time responding to discovery requests, summary judgment motions, motions to dismiss, and other filings that they don’t formulate a strategy of their own. They don’t do their own discovery or object to certain requests because they’re swamped and often intimidated. So, they’re always behind and in a constant reactive state. If a wise opponent sees how reactive you are, they can walk you right into an error. So, take control of your case. Never let a lawyer think that he’s in charge of it.
Melville’s last novel was met mostly with ignorance. Perhaps it was Melville’s form and style, summed by his own words, “There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the true method.” Though more true of Moby Dick than The Confidence Man, I suspect readers still didn’t quite know what to make of a novel that, despite being orderly by comparison, was nearly three-quarters dialog; without a discerna ...more
In New Hampshire one party is pro se in 85% of all civil cases in the district court and 48% of all civil cases in the superior court in 2004.[40] In probate court, both sides are unrepresented by lawyers in 38% of cases. In superior court domestic relations cases, almost 70% of cases have one pro se party, while in district court domestic violence cases, 97% of the cases have one pro se party.[1]
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