Over 90% of all lawsuits are resolved without a trial. If you and your adversary can arrive at a fair resolution without going to trial, you can save yourself time and money. By showing you how to prove and disprove legal claims, this book can help you arrive at a fair resolution of your dispute using settlement procedures. For a complete discussion of settlement, see Chapter 6.
In a California study of family matters, one party appeared pro se in 2/3 of all domestic relations cases and in 40% of all child custody cases in 1991-95. California reports in 2001 that over 50% of the filings in custody and visitation are by pro se litigants. Urban courts report that approximately 80% of the new divorce filings are filed pro se.[2]
This surprisingly easy hack is one that can be done anytime, anywhere--and is rarely done enough. People underestimate the power of an erect spine or a rigid stance. Carrying yourself like you are proud to be who you are indirectly gives your brain feedback that you are indeed a lovely human, so that you subsequently positive feelings about yourself. Who knew the body could be such a powerful tool?
This can be a humbling and learning experience.  Sometimes, despite our convictions or our research, there will be times we will miss or misinterpret the point and be wrong.  Thinking law and litigation is a mixture of morality, common sense and fairness is a common source of this experience.  Morality, common sense and fairness may be elements in the drafting of laws, but the implementation of law may not favor morality, common sense or fairness as these terms are generally defined.
123. Note that this does not necessarily imply the pro se reforms in EDNY are failing to improve the litigation process for pro se litigants. See notes 97–100 and accompanying text. It is conceivable that, for example, the reforms in EDNY have led to higher average settlement values for pro se plaintiffs and thus improved overall outcomes for pro se litigants. Moreover, there could be important benefits to a litigation process in which pro se litigants feel more fully heard and in which the process is more dignified for pro se litigants. This office could be creating large benefits for pro se litigants in EDNY overall. However, this analysis is restricted to case outcomes. Further, the pro se reforms in EDNY may be making a positive impact in terms of the efficiency side of the equation, helping to dispose of pro se cases more quickly and efficiently than would otherwise be the case and reducing the overall burden of pro se cases on the court despite not improving case outcomes for pro se litigants.
When pro se litigants feel they are being shut out from the process or that their voices are being stifled, these challenges—and the accompanying risks—are amplified. In fact, studies show that notions of fairness heavily influence and guide pro se litigants. Id. at 4. Indeed, “research has repeatedly established that when litigants perceive that a decision-making process is fair, they are more likely to be satisfied with the outcome.” Self-Represented Litigation Network, Handling Cases Involving Self-Represented Litigants: A National Bench Guide for Judges 2–4 (2008).
Table 3B—providing forms and handbooks as well as individual case assistance, for instance. Because this reform effort is different from those that Part III discusses, it’s hard to directly compare them. But both sets of reforms fit into a similar broad bucket: attempts by courts to improve the pro se litigation process by facilitating simpler and more convenient interactions between pro se litigants and the courts.

The exclusion of prisoner pro se litigation is a potentially consequential choice. Commentators sometimes discuss trends in prisoner and nonprisoner civil pro se litigation without differentiating between the two classes, but there is no reason to assume that trends in prisoner pro se litigation mirror trends in nonprisoner pro se litigation.80 Prisoner pro se litigation may be an interesting topic of its own. However, most prisoner litigation consists of several unique case types that are pseudocriminal in nature, particularly habeas petitions, that are not necessarily similar to other types of civil pro se litigation. Accordingly, the scope of this Comment excludes cases that are predominantly brought by prisoners in order to focus more narrowly on the dynamics of civil nonprisoner pro se litigation in federal district courts.81
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
Every Supreme Court Justice is in charge of a judicial circuit in the country. The justices and the Judicial Conference of the United States should make each federal judge understand that they are expected to treat pro se litigants with respect and without disdain. They should make clear that judicial councils will take complaints seriously if judges behave in a prejudicial manner toward litigants who represent themselves.
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.
One of the most important aspects of pro se litigation in federal district courts is that pro se litigants fare extremely poorly. This is generally understood in the literature.82 However, the magnitude of the disparity between pro se and represented litigants is not always highlighted. Accordingly, this Section presents statistics on typical outcomes for represented and pro se litigants in trial. Tables 2.2 and 2.3 show the win rates of plaintiffs and defendants in cases that reach a final judgment based on whether both parties are represented, the plaintiff is proceeding pro se, or the defendant is proceeding pro se.
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.
The employees of the Prothonotary's Office are not attorneys, and they are not permitted to give legal advice or show you how to process your case. Some court staff may not know the answers to all questions about court rules, procedures and practices, and because we do not want to give you incorrect information, we will not answer questions if we do not know the correct 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.
Remember this phrase: Litigation Privilege. The phrase has a formal meaning, but in layman’s language it means that lawyers can do just about anything, especially to a self-represented litigant, to protect their clients. They can lie, steal, cheat–and kill if they could get away with it–to win. Lawyers don’t always need tricks to defeat pro se litigants, but they try them anyway. They can scare defendants into paying more than they owe or settling for far less than they deserve. They’ll use a request for admissions to make pro se litigants “admit” to undeserved liability by not answering. Some will even attempt to keep away your court reporter by lying to you or to your court reporting agency. So keep your eyes open when you’ve cornered a lawyer. Chances are, there’s a trick coming, and when it does, don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Stay focused on your case. Reacting in anger by moving for sanctions, writing letters to the judge, reporting lawyer behavior in a hearing, or moving to disqualify a lawyer makes thinking and strategizing difficult. That’s not to say certain issues shouldn’t be addressed. If you must take an issue head-on, like moving for sanctions, do it strategically so you’ll get the most out of it. Otherwise, only address lawyer antics and judicial bias when it hurts your case, not when it hurts your feelings.
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
Finally, the book devotes separate chapters to two types of specialized court proceedings. Chapter 21 provides information about hearings in divorce and related family law matters, such as spousal abuse, child custody, child support, and spousal support. Chapter 22 provides information for debtors and creditors about contested hearings that often occur in bankruptcy cases.

Unfortunately, with fees charged by lawyers commonly running in excess of $150 an hour, it may not make economic sense—or even be financially possible—for you to hire a lawyer. Even if you win and are able to collect what the other side owes you, the lawyer’s fees may devour much of your gain. As a result, representing yourself in court or dropping your claim or defense altogether may be your only realistic alternatives.
53. A factor of 1.19 indicates that a represented litigant is 1.19 times more likely to win than a pro se litigant in the same case. Some of these studies were conducted in different litigation contexts, and there is no a priori reason to believe that access to counsel has a similar impact on all types of litigation, so a large range in win ratios like the one seen here could conceivably be accurate. Still, the gap between a win ratio of 1.19 and 13.79 is sufficiently large to suggest uncertainty in these results. See Rebecca L. Sandefur, The Impact of Counsel: An Analysis of Empirical Evidence, 9 Seattle J Soc Just 51, 70 (2010).
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.
Over 90% of all lawsuits are resolved without a trial. If you and your adversary can arrive at a fair resolution without going to trial, you can save yourself time and money. By showing you how to prove and disprove legal claims, this book can help you arrive at a fair resolution of your dispute using settlement procedures. For a complete discussion of settlement, see Chapter 6.

85. Although it’s difficult to pinpoint the factors most responsible for the unfavorable outcomes for many or most pro se litigants, some issues that many district judges cite in explaining the typical challenges of pro se litigants include: pro se plaintiffs’ lack of ability to write legally comprehensible pleadings or submissions, lack of ability to respond to legal motions in fruitful ways, lack of knowledge about relevant legal precedents, issues with timeliness in the legal process, and failure to understand the legal consequences of their actions. For a more complete list of issues that judges perceive pro se litigants face, see Stienstra, Bataillon, and Cantone, Assistance to Pro Se Litigants in U.S. District Courts at *21–23 (cited in note 11).

So, you have to decide what your goal is: (1) To post your complaint on the web in all its vitriolic splendor and go down in a blaze of glory or (2) to win your case. If its the former, go for it! If its the latter, get some help to draft a complaint in law talk, keep it simple, and go for the bucks you need to survive. You can do that, and still keep the street war going in a forum other than the courtroom. That's the win-win approach.
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]
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”).

A court hearing is usually a short and narrowly defined proceeding in which you are not entitled to a jury. A judge conducts the hearing and makes a ruling. Depending on the kind of dispute you’re facing, you may find yourself in a hearing rather than a trial. For example, you’ll probably have a hearing if you are seeking an increase or a decrease in spousal or child support following your divorce or if you need to prove how much money you are entitled to after a defendant has failed to respond to your claims. This book’s advice is as pertinent to hearings as it is to trials. Many of the courtroom procedures and rules of evidence are exactly the same in a hearing as in a trial. And you still must offer evidence in a way that persuades the judge or hearing officer to rule in your favor.
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.
In order to evaluate the impact of EDNY’s pro se reforms, this Comment runs a logistic regression using whether the plaintiff won the case as the independent variable. The dataset for this regression is all cases decided in the four New York district courts between 1998 and 2007 that involved pro se plaintiffs and represented defendants. This dataset includes 578 cases from the Northern District of New York (NDNY), 2,658 cases from EDNY, 3,843 cases from SDNY, and 668 cases from the Western District of New York (WDNY). The key variable of interest is a binary variable that is coded “1” if the case is in EDNY and filed after the implementation of the pro se reforms and “0” otherwise.125 There were 1,408 cases in this dataset from after EDNY implemented the reforms.
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.
We have written another book that can help if you or someone you know has been arrested or accused of a crime and is facing possible criminal charges. It’s called The Criminal Law Handbook: Know Your Rights, Survive the System (Nolo). While that handbook does not recommend self-representation in criminal cases, it can be a tremendous resource at a time you need solid, trustworthy information.
Consumers have tried to convince courts to set aside arbitration provisions on the grounds that they are unconscionable and deprive them of their day in court. However, these challenges are not usually successful. For example, under the Federal Arbitration Act, arbitration provisions can trump consumers’ rights to file class action lawsuits. (AT&T Mobility LLC v. Conception, 131 S.Ct. 1740 (2011)).
Unfortunately, with fees charged by lawyers commonly running in excess of $150 an hour, it may not make economic sense—or even be financially possible—for you to hire a lawyer. Even if you win and are able to collect what the other side owes you, the lawyer’s fees may devour much of your gain. As a result, representing yourself in court or dropping your claim or defense altogether may be your only realistic alternatives.
99.9999999999999999999999999999999999(SHOULD I GO ON)999999999999999 of the time when a pro per (you) goes up against an attorney in Court you will lose. I cant tell you how often I have defended clients against a pro se litigant who think they just have the best case and then it blows apart like flour in a fan when you get into Court. Non-attorneys are held to the same standard as attorneys. Everyone in the world, even the judge would prefer that you retain counsel. The reason why is simple, your not a lawyer. If you have a case, I am sure that you will find an attorney to represent you.
 A. Your initial court date will  be  shown as the "Trial Date" near the top  of the complaint. If the defendant is not served with summons, the Judge will cause another summons (called an "alias summons") to be issued; a new  "Return Date", and a  new trial date will be shown on the complaint.  You are required to appear in court on the trial date even if you know the defendant was not served with summons, but you need  not bring your  witnesses. Your appearance is required so that  you may proceed with renewed efforts to serve the  summons.
You will deal with all sorts of absurdities, injustices and indignities.  You will be told nonsense and lies with people looking you straight in the eye. You must learn to stare absurdities, injustices and indignities square in the face without losing your cool while still defending yourself.  Being outraged or emotional does NOT carry the weight it may carry outside the courtroom.
Department of Social Services,37 the appellant argued that failing to provide counsel in a civil suit that would terminate parental rights violated the Due Process Clause.38 A 5–4 majority on the Supreme Court held that there was no general right to appointment of counsel in parental termination proceedings despite the importance of the right involved. The Court explained that a
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.
Some federal courts of appeals allow unrepresented litigants to argue orally (even so nonargument disposition is still possible), and in all courts the percentage of cases in which argument occurs is higher for counseled cases.[24] In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court adopted a rule that all persons arguing orally must be attorneys, although the Supreme Court claims it was simply codifying a "long-standing practice of the court."[25] The last non-attorney to argue orally before the Supreme Court was Sam Sloan in 1978.[25][26]
×