Late in 2016 NYLAG opened a legal clinic for pro se litigants in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) – one of a handful of federal district courts across the country seeking to make legal assistance available to the large number of civil litigants who come to federal court without an attorney by authorizing and funding an on-site legal clinic.
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.
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.
Chicago: Justice for the “Little Guy”?, 72 Nw U L Rev 947 (1978) (discussing deficiencies of pro se small claims courts). See also Margaret Martin Barry, Accessing Justice: Are Pro Se Clinics a Reasonable Response to the Lack of Pro Bono Legal Services and Should Law School Clinics Conduct Them?, 67 Fordham L Rev 1879, 1926 (1999) (describing the pro se system as one that “sacrifices justice for expediency”).
Serve The Complaint.  Once a complaint is filed, it must be served on all defendants. Usually, a plaintiff will pay a registered process server to personally serve the defendant. Follow your state or federal rules precisely. One of the most common ways for a plaintiff, especially a  pro se  (federal court) or  pro per  (state court) litigant, to have his or her case dismissed is because of inadequate service.
Pro se means that you are representing yourself in court, without a lawyer. Another term is self-represented litigant. If you represent yourself in a family matter, the court will ask you to attend a Pro Se Education Program. The program helps you understand court procedures and the forms you need to file with the court. Classes are free and open to the public.
Or at least R.I.P. for non-lawyer pro se litigants. Just when you thought the Supreme Court season had finally come to a close, the Court released a new rule book this morning. It’s 80 pages long and mostly a rehash, but the addition of Rule 28.8 garnered some attention for finally closing a door on the practice of non-lawyers arguing before the Court.
Table 2D shows the most common types of litigation in federal district courts and the frequency with which each type of case involves a pro se plaintiff or defendant. Pro se plaintiffs bring a disproportionately large percent of civil rights and employment discrimination cases. In contrast, pro se plaintiffs rarely bring other types of cases, such as products liability, contract, asbestos, and insurance cases.86 Table 2D also shows that the only types of cases that frequently involve pro se defendants are property cases, which are primarily foreclosure proceedings.87 Perhaps the most important takeaway from Table 2D is that a substantial proportion of many types of cases are brought by pro se plaintiffs. Though there is significant variance—pro se litigants bring 32 percent of civil rights cases but bring a more modest 8 percent of cases involving the government and 2 percent of insurance and product liability cases—pro se litigants are prevalent across many types of cases. Any reforms targeting just one type of lawsuit cannot fully address the scope of issues faced by pro se litigants.
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.
There is limited Supreme Court jurisprudence on trial-court reforms for civil pro se litigants. However, an extensive body of case law establishes the right to counsel for indigent criminal litigants and then denies that right to civil litigants who cannot afford counsel. Moreover, in one recent case, Turner v Rogers,13 the Supreme Court established a limited right to procedural protections for civil pro se litigants, creating the potential for new jurisprudence establishing new rights for civil pro se litigants.14
University of Illinois Law School's Professor Robert Lawless, a national expert in personal credit and bankruptcy, showed that, the rate of non-attorney filings in bankruptcy courts by debtors was 13.8% for chapter 13 cases, and 10.1% for chapter 7 cases. The rate was as high as 30% to 45% for major urban areas, such as California and New York city. US Bankruptcy Court of Arizona reported 23.14% cases filed pro se in October 2011, up from 20.61% a year before.[41]
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]
77. For more discussion of the nature of these fields and other data contained in the AO dataset, see generally Integrated Data Base Civil Documentation (Federal Judicial Center, 2017), archived at http://perma.cc/LT4F-2W5E. Additionally, several other fields are used in the data processing that is conducted before the analysis, such as using the docket number assigned by the district court to avoid double-counting cases. For more discussion of the data cleaning process, including the data used in that process, see
95. Data is unavailable for three policies: procedural assistance by clerk’s office staff members as part of their regular duties, appointment of counsel to represent a pro se litigant for the full case, and appointment of counsel to represent a pro se litigant in limited circumstances. See id. Although it would be interesting to conduct an analysis similar to that conducted in the following Section for each of these policies, there is no obvious reason that the absence of this data would undermine any of the following results beyond the fact that an analysis similar to that conducted below could conceivably come to different conclusions for those policies.

 Filing of complaints, appearance,  issuance  of summonses, and procedures for collection, garnishments, citations, attachments, and the like, require the parties to pay fees  and/or other "court cost". The Judge  will generally order the  party who loses to pay the "court costs". The defendant may have to pay plaintiff interest on the unpaid judgment at the statutory rate.
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.

While the outcome gap between pro se and represented litigants does not necessarily prove that lack of access to counsel causes poor case outcomes for pro se litigants, it is easy to see how it motivates proponents of pro se court reforms or civil Gideon. Table 2C suggests that, whenever one of the parties is proceeding pro se, the likelihood that any final judgment will be registered for the other party is overwhelming. If one believes that a meaningful portion of pro se litigants have important rights that they are seeking to vindicate in court, it is likely they are not receiving adequate remedies under the current legal system.85
 D. Before trial,  the parties may be given an opportunity to meet  with a mediator appointed by the Judge to resolve their case. Mediators are volunteers; they try to help parties reach a friendly agreement. They are  not judges and do not make decisions. If the dispute is not resolved in mediation, the parties will proceed to a trial, usually on the same day.
Books containing all of these rules should be available in a public law library. You may also want to purchase these books separately from the Clerk’s Office in the courthouse in which your case is filed, or from a legal bookstore, so that you can have them close at hand for reference as you read through this book and go to court. You can also find most court rules on the Internet. The information in Chapter 23 will help you start your search.
Administrative hearings rather than trials typically result when individuals contest decisions made by government agencies, or when government agencies refuse to act favorably on individuals’ requests. Thanks in part to movies and TV, a popular notion is that in the U.S., trials are the most common method of resolving civil disputes. In fact, across the country many more administrative hearings than trials occur.

Pro se means that you are representing yourself in court, without a lawyer. Another term is self-represented litigant. If you represent yourself in a family matter, the court will ask you to attend a Pro Se Education Program. The program helps you understand court procedures and the forms you need to file with the court. Classes are free and open to the public.
From Figure 1, it’s difficult to tell whether there is a trend in EDNY meaningfully different from the trend seen in other New York district courts. To investigate this further, this Comment runs the logistic regression described above. Table 4 displays the results of that regression. Because the outcome variable is whether a plaintiff wins or loses a particular case, and each of the independent variables in this regression is a binary dummy variable, the coefficients describe the change in the probability of a case outcome when the variable is set to 1 instead of 0. Hence, a coefficient of 0.5 on the variable “EDNY Reform Dummy” would imply that EDNY Reform increased the chances of a pro se plaintiff winning a case by 0.5 percent.
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.
This Part focuses on an extensive set of pro se reforms made in the federal district court in EDNY. Because these reforms were publicly announced around the time of their implementation, this Part conducts a difference-in-differences analysis of these reforms to complement the differences analysis from Part III.116 This analysis strengthens the results in Part III, suggesting that pro se reforms have not impacted case outcomes for pro se litigants.

For instance, assume that you want to ask for a jury trial and that your local rule requires a jury trial request to be made 30 days after the initial pleadings are filed. If you miss that deadline, you will not have a jury trial unless you go through a laborious process to request an extension of time to file your demand and the judge is willing to make an exception (but don’t count on it!).
Many states have amended their court procedures to make litigation less of a challenge for self-represented parties. For example, the New York State Courts’ “eTrack System” allows civil litigants to file court papers electronically, sign up for free reminders about court appearances, and receive e-mail notifications whenever a court updates their case file. New York has also established a website that contains information about legal procedures, a glossary and court forms. Visit www.nycourthelp.gov.
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.
Next, Table 2F compares the probability of a plaintiff winning when both parties are represented to the probability of a plaintiff winning when the plaintiff is represented but the defendant is a pro se defendant. In the column, “Def Rep’d / Def Pro Se,” the number 0.5 would mean that plaintiffs win half as often when both parties are represented as compared to cases in which the defendant is pro se. The lower the number, the better represented litigants fare relative to pro se litigants.88
I truly do appreciate the work you do and the information you provide as this is a great service to "all" citizens. Certainly more "legal information" is needed to increase "legal literacy" in the world today. I am amazed that you are able to respond so quickly given your "one man" operation. The "legacy" you are leaving by promoting "legal education" is important to this generation as well as future generations and I commend you for your efforts to impart of your knowledge. ... Leonard S.

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
Use small claims court techniques in bench trials. Most states have revamped court rules and procedures to accommodate non-lawyers very well in one place: their small claims courts. Small claims cases are not simple; many are conceptually difficult. (Lawyers have been willing to accommodate the small claims court system because those cases present little or no potential for fees.)
Even though mediation is informal, to reach a successful result you will need to show your adversary that you have strong evidence to support your legal position—evidence that is admissible in court should mediation fail. Otherwise, your adversary may not be willing to settle the case on terms you think are fair. This book will help you represent your position effectively during mediation.

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Of course a pro se litigant can prevail. The Judges, particularly in the family part, routinely have pro se litigants appear before them. The Judge does not determine matters based upon who has an attorney and who does not. The Judge determines matters based upon the facts and proofs presented. Some pro se litigants can be very effective and others are not. If you are not comfortable or need guidance as to what should/should not be included/presented, you would be wise to consult with an attorney with expertise in that area of law.
If the ALJ rules against you, you typically can appeal within the agency. If the agency’s decision is still unfavorable, you have “exhausted your administrative remedies” and can go to court and file a pleading asking a judge to overturn it. However, the judge who reviews the case will decide it based on the information you provided at the hearing. You won’t be able to present new evidence in court.
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.
If you go by calls and emails Jurisdictionary receives, there's good reason for this! Lawyers who bail at the last minute. Lawyers who don't know what they're doing. And, worst of all, lawyers wishing to curry favor with judges, afraid to stand up to the buffalo in the black robe and demand their clients' rights by making timely objections and threatening appeal.
Table 2D shows the most common types of litigation in federal district courts and the frequency with which each type of case involves a pro se plaintiff or defendant. Pro se plaintiffs bring a disproportionately large percent of civil rights and employment discrimination cases. In contrast, pro se plaintiffs rarely bring other types of cases, such as products liability, contract, asbestos, and insurance cases.86 Table 2D also shows that the only types of cases that frequently involve pro se defendants are property cases, which are primarily foreclosure proceedings.87 Perhaps the most important takeaway from Table 2D is that a substantial proportion of many types of cases are brought by pro se plaintiffs. Though there is significant variance—pro se litigants bring 32 percent of civil rights cases but bring a more modest 8 percent of cases involving the government and 2 percent of insurance and product liability cases—pro se litigants are prevalent across many types of cases. Any reforms targeting just one type of lawsuit cannot fully address the scope of issues faced by pro se litigants.
This Part presents an empirical analysis of pro se reforms made in federal district courts. It compares outcomes for pro se litigants in courts that have implemented reforms with outcomes for pro se litigants in courts that have not implemented reforms. The analysis discovers that outcomes are not substantially different in courts that have made these reforms. Hence, this Part suggests that pro se reforms in federal district courts have not impacted outcomes of pro se litigation despite evidence that clerks and judges in those courts believe the reforms are effective at achieving this goal.

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.

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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