Does my ex have a child custody lawyer? Although the justice system permits parents to represent themselves, we often advise parents to reconsider self-representation if the other parent will be represented by counsel. Parents represented by counsel could be in a more advantageous position. An attorney who understands family law will have specific knowledge that a lay person may lack.

Narrow exceptions to this principle have also been suggested by other courts in the United States. For example, according to one district court a state-licensed attorney who is acting as pro se may collect attorney's fees when he represents a class (of which he is a member) in a class action lawsuit,[53] or according to another court represents a law firm of which he is a member.[54] In each of those instances, a non-attorney would be barred from conducting the representation altogether. One district court found that this policy does not prevent a pro se attorney from recovering fees paid for consultations with outside counsel.[55] Pro se who are not state-licensed attorneys cannot bring up a class action lawsuit.[22]


Do your homework and educate the court. It is important, at the outset of a case, for trial counsel to determine if he or she is litigating against a wolf in sheep’s clothing. “When the pro se litigant is really an expert litigant, the court’s sympathy for his presumed inexpertise diminishes markedly.” Scott L. Garland, “Avoiding Goliath’s Fate: Defeating a Pro Se Litigant,” Litigation, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Winter 1998), at 45, 50 (1998). A search of the county or state docket may reveal that the pro se party has actually been involved in numerous lawsuits and maybe has even been deemed a vexatious litigant. Armed with this knowledge, counsel is better equipped to handle both interacting with the self-represented party and convincing the court that the pro se party’s failure to follow the rules warrants sanctions.
Tables 2E and 2F show that there is considerable variance in the outcomes of different types of cases for both represented and pro se litigants. When plaintiffs proceed pro se, they win somewhere between 2 and 11 percent of cases, depending on the nature of the suit. When the defendant is pro se and the plaintiff is represented, the plaintiff wins somewhere between 43 percent and 93 percent of cases,89 depending on the nature of the suit. This substantial variance is not confined to pro se litigants. Even when both parties are represented, there is wide variance in the percentages of cases won by plaintiffs, ranging from just 13 percent in products liability and employment discrimination cases to 77 percent in property cases.90 But in essentially all categories, pro se litigants fare far worse than represented litigants.
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.

When lawyers provide substandard representation, unhappy clients can seek relief from state disciplinary authorities and legal malpractice lawsuits. But a pro se litigant’s ability to fix mistakes made by online websites and non-lawyer advisers is much more limited. And the risk of getting inaccurate information may increase when pro se litigants communicate with online businesses in writing, rather than with lawyers in face-to-face meetings.
The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of a copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by fines and federal imprisonment. No portion of this course may be published, duplicated, shared, or used by anyone other than the currently registered subscriber.

Limit the scope of trial. Pursuant to federal and state rules of evidence and procedure, courts are responsible for establishing ground rules to efficiently manage and regulate trial practice and trial testimony. This is especially important when trial involves a pro se party because the lack of substantive and procedural knowledge can create an ever-changing, and often ever-expanding, litigation framework. Accordingly, trial counsel should make use of pretrial briefing mechanisms—including motions in limine and bench memoranda—to limit the issues for trial. Pretrial briefing affords the pro se litigant the opportunity to have his or her voice heard on the issues while efficiently framing the matters for trial. If the rules of court do not impose page limits on the particular mode of briefing being used, trial counsel should ask the court to set a page limit to help focus the discussion. In addition, trial counsel should consider asking the court to allow the parties to submit in advance their questions for direct examination to both limit improper objections and further focus the testimony on relevant, admissible evidence.


To date, a public, empirical assessment of the effects of this office on outcomes of pro se litigation is not available. This Part seeks to begin to fill that gap by evaluating the impact of EDNY’s reforms on the pro se process. Part IV.B discusses the methodology for this analysis. Part IV.C finds that the reforms in the EDNY have had a small, and in fact negative, impact on the win rates of pro se litigants in that court.123 This evidence, when combined with the evidence in Part III, strengthens this Comment’s finding that pro se reforms in trial courts have been ineffectual at improving litigation outcomes for pro se litigants.
If you or anyone you know is facing foreclosure, or has already lost a property to foreclosure, and want to sue for mortgage fraud, foreclosure fraud, wrongful foreclosure, or quiet title to your home FRAUD STOPPERS PMA can help you save time and money and increase your odds of success getting the legal remedy that you deserve. If you have received a Notice of Default (NOD) or a Foreclosure Notice (Foreclosure Complaint) and you want to know how to respond to the Notice of Default (NOD) or a Foreclosure Notice (Foreclosure Complaint) join FRAUD STOPPERS PMA today because FRAUD STOPPERS has a proven system to help you fight to save your home from foreclosure and sue for mortgage fraud. FRAUD STOPPERS turnkey Quiet Title Lawsuit package or Wrongful Foreclosure Lawsuit package includes a court ready complaint (petition for damages), Bloomberg Securitization Audit, Expert Witness Affidavit, Application for Temporary Restraining Order (to stop a foreclosure sale or stop an eviction), Lis Pendens (to cloud the marketability of the title to the real property), and Pro Se legal education material that can show you how to win a Quiet Title Lawsuit or win a Wrongful Foreclosure Lawsuit. This entire court ready Quiet Title Lawsuit Package or Wrongful Foreclosure Lawsuit Package can help you save money in legal fees and help you increase your odds of success. Join FRAUD STOPPERS PMA today and get mortgage fraud analysis and the facts and evidence you need to get the legal remedy you deserve at www.fraudstopper.org/pma
An attorney who represents himself or herself in a matter is still considered a pro se litigant. Self-representation by attorneys has frequently been the subject of criticism, disapproval, or satire, with the most famous pronouncement on the issue being British poet Samuel Johnson's[citation needed] aphorism that "the attorney who represents himself in court has a fool for a client."

To represent yourself successfully, especially ­if your adversary has a lawyer, you must be ­­­­­­prepared to invest substantial amounts of time in your ­­­­case­­­­­­­—and particu­larly in the many pretrial procedures and maneuvers that can mean the difference ­between winning and losing. To non-lawyers, the legal system seems to center on the outcomes of trials. After all, that’s the dramatic part—and the focus of so many movies and TV shows. If you believe these portrayals, you might think you just have to file a few papers, tell your story to a judge, and claim victory. (This was the belief of Vinny, who represents two ­defendants charged with murder in the wonderful court­room comedy film, My Cousin Vinny. Vinny shows up for an ­arraignment and tries to explain to the judge that the police made a mistake. Vinny is shocked when the judge advises him that he’s not going to set aside all of his state’s procedures just because Vinny finds himself “in the unique position of representing clients who say they didn’t do it.”)


Does my ex have a child custody lawyer? Although the justice system permits parents to represent themselves, we often advise parents to reconsider self-representation if the other parent will be represented by counsel. Parents represented by counsel could be in a more advantageous position. An attorney who understands family law will have specific knowledge that a lay person may lack.
In 2011, the Federal Judicial Conference surveyed federal court clerks offices regarding pro se issues. They found that only 17 of 62 responding judges report that discovery is taken in most non prisoner pro se cases and only 13 reported that discovery is taken in most prisoner pro se cases.[16]:21 In the same survey, 37% of judges found that most pro ses had problems examining witnesses, while 30% found that pro ses had no or few problems examining witnesses.[16]:22 53% found that represented parties sometimes or frequently take advantage of pro se parties.[16]:23 Only 5% reported problems of pro ses behaving inappropriately at hearings.[16]:24 Respondents to the FJC study did not report any orders against non prisoner pro se litigation.[16]

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.


Both of your suggestions are very helpful. It seems that if I were to appeal, it would not be for my upcoming Motion to Dismiss, because I understand that would be an ‘interlocutory’ appeal, and therefore not allowed. I also understand your point about the Judge & OC taking a pro se litigant much more seriously and cutting the nonsense by the very presence of a court reporter. In that respect, it makes a lot of sense in that a reporter may make an appeal unnecessary if the court decides to be reasonable and fair:)
Despite courts’ and commentators’ optimism about these reforms, there has been no publicly available empirical analysis of the effects of these reforms on case outcomes in pro se litigation thus far. There is some literature discussing the impacts of pro se court reforms in a more general sense,74 but that literature does not focus on the effect on case outcomes. This Comment seeks to fill that gap by providing an initial analysis of how reforms implemented by courts thus far have impacted case outcomes for pro se litigants.75
I am an Arizona attorney. AVVO does not pay us for our responses. Simply because I responded to your question does not mean I am your attorney. In Arizona a non-lawyer is held to the same standards as an attorney so there are dangers to representing yourself. This is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice. If you require legal assistance an in depth discussion of your case is needed as there are many other issues to consider such as defenses, statute of limitations, etc.
The disdain by federal judges against pro se litigants is a serious problem in our country, which the Supreme Court and Congress should rectify. Perhaps some judges have seen too many frivolous pro se lawsuits for their liking. Surely many such lawsuits are not meritorious, and the majority are brought by prisoners. Perhaps this is why some judges read only as far as " pro se" before rolling their eyes.
This Comment furthers the legal community’s understanding of issues in pro se litigation by conducting an empirical analysis of pro se reforms in federal district courts. By comparing case outcomes for pro se litigants in district courts that have implemented these types of reforms with the outcomes of similarly situated pro se litigants in courts that have not implemented any reforms, this Comment provides an initial assessment of the impact of those reforms. The analysis reveals that thus far, a wide range of reforms undertaken by federal district courts have not significantly impacted case outcomes for pro se litigants. This analysis conflicts with the intuitions of the Supreme Court, commentators, and judges and clerks of district court offices, who have indicated their belief that these reforms are effective.
What is a Pro Se Complaint? This is, quite simply, a lawsuit that a person files without a lawyer. The ADA Pro Se must be filed in Federal District Court., because the ADA is a Federal law. To find out which US District Court you will be filing your complaint in, look in the phone book blue (or green) pages, under United States Government Offices, "U.S. Courts".
In contrast, the results for services intended to help pro se litigants obtain representation are somewhat less clear. Again, the resultant “improvements” in win rates look more like statistical noise than meaningful impacts, but there is arguably more room for contrary interpretations.113 However, while those reforms are no doubt also advocated by many seeking an alternative to civil Gideon, they concern increased access to counsel instead of substitutes for access to counsel. Thus, these kinds of reforms do not resemble the types of reforms suggested by the Supreme Court in Turner nor by most commentators discussing civil
Does Courtroom5 apply to Ilinois ? I’m trying to accept the Judges recommendation fir division of property in a divorce case and avoid trial but my lawyer is trying to go to trial to Tim up the fees … I know I can dismiss lawyer but how do I tell the judge that I want to accept her recommendation for division of property ? Do I 1st file pro se and attach a motion to it simply telling the judge this ? My lawyer is telling me that the judge may not let me out of the case, etc. to discourage me. I need this case to close. No children are involved and this case resulted from a Bifurcated Divorce. I need to get some advice as soon as possible and feel confident about filing the documents. Trial is set for June 2019.
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.
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.

Sir Walter Raleigh defended himself against charges treason, I believe because treason defendants were not allowed to have counsel. Raleigh lost, and was eventually beheaded, but you might say that he won in the court of history. His arguments against the prosecution's use of affidavits instead of live testimony are well known today, and the case is held up as an example of what would now be a violation of the Confrontation Clause.
109. It is worth noting that these reforms could produce unobservable benefits in a number of ways. For example, as discussed previously, some district courts may be implementing these reforms differently in practice, and it may be the case that a few are successfully implementing the reforms, resulting in significant improvements to case outcomes for those courts but not enough improvement to show up in the overall numbers. Alternately, it may be the case that one particular combination of reforms is especially impactful. There is not enough data to fruitfully study all permutations of reforms. Still, this analysis is revealing with respect to the cumulative effects of these reforms.
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
Make sure you follow those instructions! At that point, you will be given so many days to serve the defendant with the court summons. In some districts, the plaintiff has the choice of either delivering the summons himself, a friend deliver it, or having a federal Marshal deliver it. It is most effective to have either a federal Marshal deliver the summons, or a really big guy in a suit. Whoever delivers the summons must make a note of who the summons is delivered to, what the date is, and what time it was delivered. Record this information on the appropriate form that is sent to you with the summons, and take it back to the district court.
Oh my Lord Sonja, you’re my new hero! I went at it with an attorney on Avvo; I asked a legal question and he more or less belittled me for thinking that I had a case and then for thinking that I could actually handle it on my own. This guy was a real jerk! l know I have a winning case but there are not many lawyers in my area that are familiar enough with the statutes to take it pro bono and therefore take the risk. Even the legal opinions that I’ve read say the case law is sparse. Thank you for standing up for pro se litigants and setting the record straight.
As the plausibility of civil Gideon has diminished in the wake of Turner, trial court reforms for pro se litigants have emerged as a compromise. Both proponents and critics of civil Gideon see major potential benefits of pro se reform: it is a low-cost option that could conceivably provide meaningful benefits to pro se litigants without diverting legal resources from more critical cases, it helps ensure pro se litigants will receive fundamentally fair hearings, and it is a more politically and jurisprudentially feasible solution than civil Gideon.60
Our mission is to provide the highest level of service to the Court and all people having business before the Court. We maintain the public record of court proceedings, provide access to the Court and administrative support to the Court’s judicial officers. We earn the public’s trust and confidence by carrying out our mission in a manner that is accurate, efficient, courteous, and easy to understand.

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.
62. See, for example, Robert Bacharach and Lyn Entzeroth, Judicial Advocacy in Pro Se Litigation: A Return to Neutrality, 42 Ind L Rev 19, 34–35 (2009) (arguing that “ad hoc” rules applied to pro se litigants often end up disadvantaging rather than aiding pro se litigants, and specifically describing how attempts by judges to help pro se litigants make initial claims could lead to more dismissals of those claims, thus threatening their pauper status).
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.
As seen in Table 2A, civil nonprisoner pro se litigation appears to comprise a stable proportion of federal district courts’ dockets.78 Averaged over several four-year time periods, the percentage of cases in federal district courts that were filed by pro se plaintiffs has ranged only from 9 to 10 percent. However, that still constitutes an average of more than fifteen thousand federal district court cases each year involving nonprisoner pro se plaintiffs. Similarly, the percentage of cases that have been answered by pro se defendants has hovered around 2 percent.

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!


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).
Fill-in-the-blank court forms for most states are available online. When you visit a state court website that has do-it-yourself forms, you may be asked a series of questions about your legal problem. Your answers will automatically generate the appropriate form with instructions on how to complete it and what to do with it once it’s done. To see the forms available on New York’s self-help website, visit www.nycourthelp.gov/diy/index.html.

The primary dataset used in this Comment consists of administrative records of civil cases filed in federal district courts, which are collected and published by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AO).76 The AO dataset includes the district court in which the case was filed, the docket number of each case, the date on which the case was filed, the nature of the suit, the procedural progress of the case at the time the case was disposed of, the manner in which the case was disposed of, the party that the final judgment of the case was in favor of, and whether the plaintiff or the defendant was a pro se party.77
The BIGGEST mistake pro se litigants make is thinking they know more than they do, as a way of overcompensating for lack of confidence. False bravado can lead you into mistakes #2, #3, and #4 on this list and a whole lot more. You don’t bring a court reporter because you don’t feel you need one. You don’t do research because you don’t have time, and you think you know enough. You react to or challenge every lawyer trick because you believe, without any evidence, that it’s the best thing to do. You talk about admiralty law, not because you know anything about it or where it fits into your case, but because you heard someone talk about it. You file the wrong motions in the wrong situations. It’s important to know what you don’t know and act accordingly. Instead of talking about sovereign citizenship, talk about and use civil procedure. Rather than reacting to lawyer antics, judicial bias or a sense of unfairness, focus on your case. Learn it backwards and forwards, and then bring your court reporter. That’s how you win. See Sovereign Citizens Make Pro Se Litigants Look Silly for more about the “problem” with sovereign citizens.
There are several important limitations to using this data. First, the exact date of the survey is unclear and, relatedly, the exact dates that each district court responded that it was employing or not employing these procedures is uncertain. The analysis is conducted using cases filed between 2008 and 2010. Accordingly, if a large number of district courts altered their policies shortly before this survey was conducted or if the survey was conducted substantially before the survey was published, it’s possible that this analysis would undercount the effects of those policies. In either of those scenarios, the full consequences of these reforms might not be seen in the 2008–2010 data sample. However, there is no information suggesting that either possibility is reflected in reality. Courts and commentators have been discussing and attempting to solve the challenges of pro se litigation for decades and implementing reforms for at least a decade; it seems unlikely that they all started implementing these solutions immediately prior to the survey.96

This book explains each step of the civil litigation process from pre-litigation investigation through trial on the merits to give you the best chance of prevailing in your efforts whether you are a plaintiff or a defendant. Its detailed explanations of the various requirements of the litigation process are supported with detailed checklists that insure you leave nothing to chance as you work through the process and help you avoid the costly mistakes pro se litigants commonly make as they fight their lawsuits.
3. Many commentators share the same concerns about indigent criminal defendants. However, because criminal defendants are guaranteed access to counsel, they face a somewhat different set of challenges than pro se civil litigants and are not the focus of the analysis of this Comment. For one critical discussion of the treatment of indigent criminal defendants, see generally Stephen B. Bright, Legal Representation for the Poor: Can Society Afford This Much Injustice?, 75 Mo L Rev 683 (2010). But see J. Harvie Wilkinson III, In Defense of American Criminal Justice, 67 Vand L Rev 1099, 1127–29 (2014) (arguing that representation of criminal indigent defendants is generally of high quality).
  There is a kind of greatness which does not depend upon fortune; it is a certain manner that distinguishes us, and which seems to destine us for great things; it is the value we insensibly set upon ourselves; it is by this quality that we gain the deference of other men, and it is this which commonly raises us more above them, than birth, rank, or even merit itself.
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.
The primary dataset used in this Comment consists of administrative records of civil cases filed in federal district courts, which are collected and published by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AO).76 The AO dataset includes the district court in which the case was filed, the docket number of each case, the date on which the case was filed, the nature of the suit, the procedural progress of the case at the time the case was disposed of, the manner in which the case was disposed of, the party that the final judgment of the case was in favor of, and whether the plaintiff or the defendant was a pro se party.77
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.
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.
Do your homework and educate the court. It is important, at the outset of a case, for trial counsel to determine if he or she is litigating against a wolf in sheep’s clothing. “When the pro se litigant is really an expert litigant, the court’s sympathy for his presumed inexpertise diminishes markedly.” Scott L. Garland, “Avoiding Goliath’s Fate: Defeating a Pro Se Litigant,” Litigation, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Winter 1998), at 45, 50 (1998). A search of the county or state docket may reveal that the pro se party has actually been involved in numerous lawsuits and maybe has even been deemed a vexatious litigant. Armed with this knowledge, counsel is better equipped to handle both interacting with the self-represented party and convincing the court that the pro se party’s failure to follow the rules warrants sanctions.
Although this analysis focuses on case outcomes, those are by no means the only potential metric for analyzing the impact of pro se reforms. Another relevant, tangible measure is the length of proceedings. Pro se reforms have the potential to greatly expedite pro se proceedings, helping to ensure that litigants are able to move on with their lives as quickly as possible. Shortened proceedings are valuable in their own right without impacting case outcomes. Less tangibly, it may be the case that pro se reforms improve the litigation experience for pro se litigants and help ensure that they feel they have had a fair hearing in court. Increasing satisfaction with court proceedings is a significant benefit to litigants and also boosts the public perception of the legal system—both valuable outcomes that would not show up in the analysis below.100
We often talk to parents about whether to file for child custody pro se, a legal term also known as 'self-representation.' In general, we recommend that parents proceed with caution when it comes to filing for child custody or child support pro se. The following questions and tips can help you determine the best course of action related to your case.
To represent yourself successfully, especially ­if your adversary has a lawyer, you must be ­­­­­­prepared to invest substantial amounts of time in your ­­­­case­­­­­­­—and particu­larly in the many pretrial procedures and maneuvers that can mean the difference ­between winning and losing. To non-lawyers, the legal system seems to center on the outcomes of trials. After all, that’s the dramatic part—and the focus of so many movies and TV shows. If you believe these portrayals, you might think you just have to file a few papers, tell your story to a judge, and claim victory. (This was the belief of Vinny, who represents two ­defendants charged with murder in the wonderful court­room comedy film, My Cousin Vinny. Vinny shows up for an ­arraignment and tries to explain to the judge that the police made a mistake. Vinny is shocked when the judge advises him that he’s not going to set aside all of his state’s procedures just because Vinny finds himself “in the unique position of representing clients who say they didn’t do it.”)
Following Gideon, legal activists began a push to extend the right to counsel into the civil sphere. Advocates argued that the right to counsel should be extended to civil cases in which the litigants’ essential rights were at stake.36 Those activists have had limited success; the Supreme Court has declined to find a right to counsel in civil litigation. In one notable case, Lassiter v
A fellow advocate member of DAC, our advocacy group, filed her Pro Se in Federal District Court, after waiting and waiting for DOJ to respond. She lives on a low fixed income, and was able to waive the filing fee. Within a week, she received her notification of receipt that her case is now pending in federal court. At the same time she received notification that the inaccessible business was being served the complaint by a federal marshal. Shortly after that, she received a letter from the attorney for the inaccessible business stating that they wanted to settle out of court. Of course!! We settled for full compliance with the ADA.
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