The regression is run with five different sets of specifications. The first regresses outcomes against a dummy for whether the case took place with EDNY reform; the second model adds a dummy variable indicating whether each case took place in EDNY; the third model adds dummy variables indicating which district court each case was filed in; the fourth adds dummy variables for the year the case was filed (but removes the district dummy variables); and the fifth model includes dummy variables for both the year and district for each case.126
6. The Supreme Court has indicated awareness of this issue. See Neitzke v Williams, 490 US 319, 326 (1989) (noting “the problems in judicial administration caused by the surfeit of meritless in forma pauperis complaints in the federal courts, not the least of which is the possibility that meritorious complaints will receive inadequate attention or be difficult to identify amidst the overwhelming number of meritless complaints”).
Clerk’s staff and judges in Brooklyn now refer pro se litigants to a new on-site center called the Pro Se Legal Assistance Project. There, a small legal staff from the New York City Bar Justice Center helps clients more effectively pursue their cases. The center assists with strategizing, document drafting and procedural guidance, but does not directly represent litigants in court.
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.
Courts are public institutions belonging to the people, and you have the right to represent yourself there. However, courts are also bureaucratic institutions with very heavy caseloads. Historically, filing clerks, courtroom clerks, court reporters, and even judges have usually preferred to deal with lawyers rather than with people who represent themselves. (When you represent yourself, you may find yourself referred to as a “pro per” or “pro se” litigant, Latin abbreviations favored by judges and lawyers.) Although the increasing number of people representing themselves is beginning to change these attitudes in some places, many court personnel believe (often mistakenly) that they can do their work more quickly and easily when they work with lawyers than when they work with people who are representing themselves.
Can I afford a private child custody attorney? Each parent is aware of his/her own, unique financial position and resources. Some parents borrow money for an attorney, while others may possess significant savings. Divorced parents are often fortunate enough to have legal expenses covered by a former spouse, written directly into a divorce decree. If parents are of modest means, pro se representation might be an appropriate alternative to hiring a private child custody lawyer, but cost should not be the only consideration.
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
One newspaper report from the time suggests Parker did fine, though it was clear he was an amateur. He arrived with a thick pile of notes, wagged his fingers at the justices, and wore striped pants and a cutaway jacket. That was what all lawyers once wore to argue at the court, but it had fallen out of favor for all but government lawyers by the time Parker appeared before the court.
Great advice! Every point you have made about lawyers and their tricks, I have experienced. One of the greatest failures of the lower courts is the acceptance of inadequate documentation because they go unchallenged. The court is not going to do your work or come to your rescue as you may think. If the document is a not original or is forged, it is up to you to make the case. Even if the judge can see that a document may have an obvious forgery, you must still make the case against it.
Unfortunately for this empirical exercise, district courts do not randomly decide whether to implement a particular reform. If these pro se reforms had been randomly assigned, then this analysis would mimic an experiment, and it would be safer to conclude (provided the statistics suggested so) that any differences in case outcomes shown in the tables below were causal. Without random assignment of pro se reforms to district courts, the conclusions of this analysis may suffer from selection bias. For example, courts that are particularly favorable to pro se litigants might also be more likely to implement reforms. If pro se litigants happened to fare better in these courts, it would be difficult to empirically discern whether litigants fare better because of the reforms or the favorable attitude, and some measure of the district court’s favorability toward pro se litigants could be an important omitted variable.
But this passage reminds us of the continuing tradition of morning dress for the Solicitor General’s office before the Supreme Court. If it already looked stupid in 1948, it definitely looks stupid now. Adhering to tradition for the mere sake of tradition is small-minded. After Elena Kagan dumped the practice — since wearing what is essentially a tuxedo is less than flattering for a woman — there was some reason to believe it would join powdered wigs in the dustbin of American legal history. No such luck.
This Part discusses trends in civil pro se litigation in federal district courts. It examines several important characteristics of pro se litigation: the volume, typical outcomes, and typical types of suits brought by pro se litigants. It then describes some implications of this data and thus helps contextualize the empirical analyses of pro se reforms that Parts III and IV present.
In 1963, the Supreme Court broke from precedent and found the right to counsel to be a “fundamental safeguard[ ] of liberty” guaranteed to all criminal defendants by the Constitution.28 In the landmark case Gideon v Wainwright,29 Clarence Earl Gideon was charged in Florida state court with breaking and entering with intent to commit petty larceny.30 Gideon appeared alone in court and requested a court-appointed attorney to assist his case. The Florida court declined, as Florida did not provide counsel for criminal defendants in noncapital cases.31 After granting certiorari,32 the Supreme Court held that the Due Process Clause requires states to provide counsel in noncapital criminal cases, overturning Betts. The Court focused on the “fundamental” nature of the right, comparing it favorably to rights like freedom of speech and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, and the Court held that the Due Process Clause prohibited states from violating the right.33 This holding, along with its extension to misdemeanors in Argersinger v Hamlin,34 established the modern right to counsel in all criminal cases.35
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.
Try to answer questions on your own. Remember that you are hiring a legal coach, not a full-service lawyer. That means you need to do as much as you can by yourself and only turn to the coach when you are really stuck. By reading this book all the way through and consulting a nearby law library, you can answer many of your questions on your own. And those you cannot answer completely you can often narrow down.
Congratulations! You have just filed your first Pro Se complaint. Feel free to share your new knowledge with as many people as you can, including any materials in this packet. Nothing is copyrighted, and duplication is encouraged. If you need any further assistance, please call the Pa. Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities at (717) 238-0172 voice or (717) 238-3433 TTY.
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.
132. See generally D. James Greiner, Dalié Jiménez, and Lois R. Lupica, Self-Help, Reimagined, 92 Ind L J 1119 (2017). It is difficult to synthesize their conclusions into a simple path toward providing pro se litigants with effective assistance, but they emphasize in particular the need for breaking legal problems down into their constituent components, including mental, psychological, and cognitive issues, as well as identifying and implementing relevant research from nonlegal literature to address those problems. They emphasize in particular that often the “relevant tasks have little to do with formal law.” Id at 1172.
According to Utah Judicial Council report of 2006, 80 percent of self-represented people coming to the district court clerk's office seek additional help before coming to the courthouse. About 60 percent used the court's Web site, 19 percent sought help from a friend or relative, 11 percent from the court clerk, and 7 percent went to the library. In the justice courts, 59 percent sought no help.
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.
Encourage lawyer coaching. Many self-represented litigants are willing to pay lawyers to coach them through their cases--that is, give them information about the ins and outs of court and the substantive issues--without taking the case over. Yet, few lawyers are willing to enter into this type of relationship because of ethical concerns about participating in a case they don't control, and fear of being held liable for issues that are beyond the scope of the coaching relationship. The organized bar should address these concerns by:
Turner, the most recent Supreme Court ruling on the rights of civil pro se litigants, threw an unexpected twist into this line of cases and provided fodder for both proponents and detractors of the expanded right to counsel for civil litigants. In Turner, all nine justices agreed that the state was not required to provide counsel in a civil contempt hearing even if the contempt order would have resulted in incarceration.41 Nonetheless, a five-justice majority overturned the sentence, holding that the state must “have in place alternative procedures that ensure a fundamentally fair determination of the critical incarceration-related question.”42 The Court highlighted a “set of ‘substitute procedural safeguards’”—for example, notice about critical issues in the case, the use of forms to elicit relevant information, and other potential protections—that could stand in for assistance of counsel and ensure the “‘fundamental fairness’ of the proceeding even where the State does not pay for counsel for an indigent defendant.”43
Proponents and detractors within the civil Gideon debate disagree on how effective civil Gideon would be in improving case outcomes for pro se litigants. One reason for this is that commentators disagree about how effective Gideon itself has been at improving case outcomes for criminal defendants.50 Many of the reasons commonly given for the failure of Gideon, such as the political difficulty of allocating sufficient resources to defense lawyers and the high bar for claiming ineffective assistance of counsel, would likely apply with equal or greater force in the context of civil Gideon.51
Paul Bergman is a Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law and a recipient of two University Distinguished Teaching Awards. His books include Nolo’s Deposition Handbook (with Moore, Nolo); Reel Justice: The Courtroom Goes to the Movies (Andrews & McMeel); Trial Advocacy: Inferences, Arguments, Techniques (with Moore and Binder, West Publishing Co.); Trial Advocacy in a Nutshell (West Publishing Co.); Represent Yourself in Court: How to Prepare & Try a Winning Case (with Berman, Nolo); Depositions in a Nutshell (with Moore, Binder, and Light, West Publishing); Lawyers as Counselors: A Client-Centered Approach (with Binder, Tremblay, and Weinstein, West Publishing); and Cracking the Case Method (Vandeplas Publishing). He has also published numerous articles in law journals.
Defendants who choose to appear pro se may do so because they believe they may gain tactical advantages against the prosecutor, such as obtaining sympathy from the jury, the opportunity to personally address the jury and witnesses. Pro se appearances may also delay the trial proceedings and enhance the possibility of a mistrial and a subsequent appeal.