Handling Cases Involving Self-Represented Litigants: A Benchguide for Judicial Officers. (January 2007). Center for Families, Children, and the Courts. California Administrative Office of the Courts This comprehensive bench guide, the first of its kind, was designed to help judicial officers handle the increase in cases involving self-represented litigants. Twelve chapters of helpful suggestions are provided, along with sample scripts and checklists.
This book can guide you through nearly every kind of trial in every court system (state or federal) because the litigation process is remarkably uniform throughout all of them. In part, this is because federal courts and most state courts share a “common law” heritage—a way of trying cases that came over from England and developed along with the country. And, in part, it is because many local procedures are consistent with national legal codes (sets of rules and regulations).
You might expect lawyers who disrespect their professional colleagues to be even more disrespectful of pro se litigants. If an adversary’s lawyer tries to intimidate you, keep your cool. Look to the judge for help, and don’t try to out-bully a bully. Perhaps realizing that most lawyers and bar associations disavow bullying tactics can help you do so.
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…
James Traficant, the colorful congressman from Ohio, defended himself twice. The first time was on bribery charges during his time as a local sheriff in the early 80s. He succeeded with a daring argument that his bribe-taking was really part of a corruption investigation that he himself was running. The second time didn't work out so well. He was convicted of some impropriety with campaign funds, got kicked out of the House, and went to prison for several years.
“One statistic asserts that 90 percent of Americans will face a lawsuit at some point in their lives,” Zeidwig points out. “Yes, it’s possible to represent yourself in court, but you need to know specifically what to do in order to be best prepared. For example, how much time you have to file documents and such is rigid — if you miss the deadline, you’re in serious trouble.”
Once convicted, a prisoner no longer has the right to a public defender. Motions for post conviction relief are considered civil motions. Brandon Moon is an example of an unsuccessful pro se litigant who became successful when his case was taken by a lawyer. Moon's case was taken by the Innocence Project, and he was released after 17 years in jail for a rape that he did not commit.[50]
Handling Cases Involving Self-Represented Litigants: A Benchguide for Judicial Officers. (January 2007). Center for Families, Children, and the Courts. California Administrative Office of the Courts This comprehensive bench guide, the first of its kind, was designed to help judicial officers handle the increase in cases involving self-represented litigants. Twelve chapters of helpful suggestions are provided, along with sample scripts and checklists.
Contingency Fees. When representing people in personal injury cases, lawyers often take a percentage of the final judgment—often one-third, but varying depending on factors such as whether a case settles before trial—as their fee. Because you will try your own case, you will probably not use a contingency fee arrangement. If your coach suggests one, do not agree to give too high a percentage, since you will be doing most of the work.
With that said, some breaches of procedure by a pro se litigant are important, while others are not. To navigate these inevitable breaches to the benefit of a client, counsel must determine how the court generally views such breaches and take steps to ensure the court understands when the breaches are material (e.g., the breach prejudices a party unfairly). However, even potentially armed with such knowledge, the court may have a “tendency to stretch or ignore the procedural rules in the pro se litigant’s favor.” Id. at 50. While counsel can continually remind the court that the pro se litigant must be held to the same standard as an attorney, “some courts may still regard procedural breaches as relatively unimportant.” Id. Thus, it becomes imperative “to convince the court that the procedural breach is a serious matter.” Id. In other words, counsel must educate the court in both a succinct and compelling way—whether through an oral objection or appropriate written means—that the pro se litigant’s procedural failure is unduly prejudicial to counsel’s client, the court, the administration of justice generally, or some or all of these.
The Sixth Amendment guarantees criminal defendants the right to representation by counsel.  In 1975, the Supreme Court held that the structure of the Sixth Amendment necessarily implies that a defendant in a state criminal trial has a constitutional right to proceed without counsel when he voluntarily and intelligently elects to do so. See Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975).  Thus, an unwilling defendant may not be compelled by the State to accept the assistance of a lawyer.  A defendant's right to self-represenatation in federal criminal proceedings is codified in 28 U.S.C. § 1654. 
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
No matter how many times you read this book and how carefully you prepare, you will probably feel anxious when you represent yourself in court, especially if your opponent has a lawyer. Perhaps it will help you if you know that you aren’t alone. Many professionals feel anxiety—particularly before a first performance—whether they are lawyers about to begin a trial, teachers about to teach a class, or actors about to perform on stage. So take a deep breath and gather up your courage. As long as you combine your common sense with the principles and techniques described in this book, and are not afraid to ask a court clerk, a law librarian, an attorney, or even the judge for help if you become confused, you should be able to represent yourself competently and effectively.
The information contained in this email and the supporting attachments provided by ProAdvocate Group are for educational purposes only. Although we have performed extensive research regarding legal principles, our trustees, officers and supporting staff of ProAdvocate Group are not licensed members of the State Bar of Texas. Information provided by members of ProAdvocate Group should not be considered a substitute for the advice of a licensed attorney in handling your legal affairs.

This is truly one of the worst books I have ever read. If he were alive, either Melville or I would be the target of a well-placed bullet. Irretrievably romantic, psychological, depressing and completely impractical, this work is beyond believability. So much is described in a tortuous introspection which, in reality, NO ONE ever contemplates before acting. A mysticism accompanies every motivation. He manufactures conflicts that, in a normal world, would never exist. An ...more
Some pro se litigants are intelligent and sophisticated. I recall one individual who represented himself in a case that proceeded to jury trial. He proved quite capable, and the verdict was in his favor. In other cases, the pro se parties are long on emotion and short on knowledge regarding law and procedure. This puts the judge in an uncomfortable position.
I am a member iPod this website and a Pro Se litigant. I do not feel pitted against opposing counsel at all. I have four attorneys representing defendants in my suit. I can clearly see those ethically defending their clients to the best of their ability and I also see two of them reverting to sneaky tricks, underestimating me as a Pro Se litigant and not following the law. The articles on this site that you seem to think are misguiding people are very helpful in understanding the behavior of those, less ethical, of your colleagues than you may be! This is a resource for people with sixth amendment rights. If you would like to represent me, pro bono, in my multi million dollar defamation suit, please contact me!
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.
Now in its second year, the SDNY Legal Clinic for Pro Se Litigants has successfully assisted hundreds of litigants in a range of cases including employment discrimination, civil rights, intellectual property and more. In many instances, cases that do not belong in the SDNY are diverted to another more appropriate venue, such as Family Court or Housing Court – saving litigants time and anxiety and sparing the court’s limited resources.
The clinic has also introduced a unique program that solicits junior lawyers at firms to take or defend depositions for pro se litigants on a pro bono basis. As a former litigator in private practice Tarnofsky recognized that in high stakes litigation, clients often want experienced lawyers handling depositions.  This program has been welcomed by a number of large New York City law firms an opportunity to train the next generation of lawyers. For pro se litigants it means not having to face a tough deposition on their own, and having a far better chance to tell their stories and make the best case or mount the best defense possible.
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.
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.
Reaching out to people close to us, even if just for a quick chat, is a great way to remember our vast self-worth. While it's not right to seek validation through others, it is definitely helpful to spend time with those who make us feel loved. People like this include our closest friends, our family, and our significant others. Feeling that you deserve the companies of others is an essential step in developing love for yourself.
This is a nonprofit organization which provides low income people with representation in civil matters which constitute emergencies, such as loss of income, shelter, and medical care. In addition, this office has PA Legal Aid Network pamphlets which contain information on many legal situations such as divorce, custody, child support and foreclosure.

There is every reason to believe that the number of pro se litigants involved in litigation in federal and state courts will continue to rise in the coming years, especially given the courts’ focus on increasing access to pro se parties. Along with this increase, the challenges facing the judicial system and trial counsel involving unrepresented parties will continue to rise, requiring increasingly careful consideration. However, armed with the best practices, trial counsel can help alleviate some of the challenges both sides of the aisle face.
Any waiver of the right to counsel must be knowing, voluntary, and intelligent.  The Faretta court stated that "a defendant need not have the skill and experience of a lawyer, but should be made aware of the dangers and disadvantages of self-representation, so that the record will establish that he knows what he is doing and "the choice is made with eyes open."  See Faretta.  In 2004, the Court acknowledged that it has not prescribed any formula regarding the information a defendant must possess in order to make an intelligent choice.  See Iowa v. Tovar, 541 U.S. 77 (2004).  According to the Court, determining whether a waiver of counsel is intelligent depends on "a range of case-specific factors, including the defendant's education or sophistication, the complex or easily grasped nature of the charge, and the stage of the proceeding."  See Tovar.

One part of that questionnaire focused on the procedural steps that clerks’ offices took to assist pro se litigants, either through programs and procedures or efforts to improve access to counsel. The survey asked about eighteen different services, programs, or procedures that at least some district courts have implemented to assist nonprisoner pro se litigants.94 The appendix to that survey describes which of the responding district courts had implemented those policies as of the survey date for fifteen of those eighteen policies.95
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."[36][37] 54% of judges responding to a Federal Judicial Conference survey use videoconferences for prisoner pro se hearings.[16]:29
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