Overall, the analysis in this Section suggests that, though many federal district courts have implemented reforms aimed at improving case outcomes for pro se litigants, they have not yet succeeded in improving those outcomes. Tables 3A and 3B suggest that a variety of policies, each implemented in a substantial number of district courts, have all been ineffective in improving case outcomes for pro se litigants. Similarly, the evidence suggests that even courts that have implemented multiple or many of these policies have not improved outcomes for pro se litigants thus far. Despite the belief expressed by clerks’ offices and chief judges of federal district courts, commentators, and the Supreme Court that these types of measures are effective, the empirical evidence suggests that these measures make no difference in case outcomes.115
Gideon, the movement has generally focused on providing counsel for indigent parties in proceedings involving threats to their basic needs.47 From the movement’s inception, commentators have been divided over the merits of civil Gideon. Advocates have put forth a number of arguments in favor of civil Gideon. They have argued that representation in civil litigation secures constitutional rights to due process and equal protection of law, is necessary to ensure fair trials, is “sound social policy,” and helps ensure more consistent outcomes for defendants.48 Critics have countered with both direct refutations and alternative suggestions. They have argued that Gideon wasn’t that effective in aiding criminal defendants, so civil Gideon would not be either; civil Gideon would be ineffective notwithstanding the effectiveness of Gideon; civil
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.[49]
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.
Know the Rules of the Road.  Before filing a lawsuit, you must carefully read your state’s code of civil procedure and the court’s local rules. If you also have federal claims and wish to file in federal court, then you must read the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as well as the particular district’s local rules. In addition, some judges have their own rules called local local rules. You must familiarize yourself with these rules as well.  

80. There are many factors affecting trends in prisoner pro se litigation that likely do not impact nonprisoner pro se litigation, such as the growth of the US prison population and concerns about the particular conditions and resources available to prisoners. For one discussion of prisoner pro se litigation, see generally Michael W. Martin, Foreword: Root Causes of the Pro Se Prisoner Litigation Crisis, 80 Fordham L Rev 1219 (2011).
 B. All papers, such as leases, contracts, sales or rent  receipts, letters from or  to the plaintiff or defendant, paid repair bills or three written repair estimates, canceled checks, photographs, and merchandise such as damaged clothing, etc. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PAPERS AT HOME.  They can only be of help when you show them to the Judge. If you do not know whether certain documents or papers are important or will be needed in the court, be prepared and bring them with you.
Resource Guide on Serving Self-Represented Litigants Remotely (SRLN 2016). (July 2016). Self-Represented Litigants Network The Resource Guide provides options for courts and other entities interested in providing services to self-represented litigants using means that are not face-to-face, instead of, or in addition to, in-person alternatives such as walk-in services, workshops, and clinics. 

There are also freely accessible web search engines to assist pro se in finding court decisions that can be cited as an example or analogy to resolve similar questions of law.[73] Google Scholar is the biggest database of full text state and federal courts decisions that can be accessed without charge.[74] These web search engines often allow pro se to select specific state courts to search.[73]
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.[49]

In September 2017, Judge Richard Posner abruptly resigned from the Seventh Circuit. In subsequent interviews, Posner explained that he resigned in part because of his disagreement with his judicial colleagues over the Seventh Circuit’s treatment of pro se litigants (those litigants who appear before courts without lawyers).1 In particular, Posner thought the court wasn’t “treating the pro se appellants fairly,” didn’t “like the pro se’s,” and generally didn’t “want to do anything with them.”2


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.
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
After conducting an empirical study of pro se felony defendants, I conclude that these defendants are not necessarily either ill-served by the decision to represent themselves or mentally ill. ... In state court, pro se defendants charged with felonies fared as well as, and arguably significantly better than, their represented counterparts ... of the 234 pro se defendants for whom an outcome was provided, just under 50 percent of them were convicted on any charge. ... for represented state court defendants, by contrast, a total of 75 percent were convicted of some charge. ... Only 26 percent of the pro se defendants ended up with felony convictions, while 63 percent of their represented counterparts were convicted of felonies ... in federal court ... the acquittal rate for pro se defendants is virtually identical to the acquittal rate for represented defendants.[39]
  If you cannot attend a scheduled court  date (because of hospitalization or illness,  etc.), you may file a motion to postpone the  case. The Pro Se Staff will help you with the  preparation of the  motion and notice. In  addition, telephone your opponent to explain that  you need a continuance. If you and your opponent agree on another date, the Judge will try to  accommodate you. In any event, you or someone for  you should appear in court on the scheduled court date. The Judge will then grant or deny the  continuance.
According to the 1996 report on pro se by University of Maryland Law School, 57% of pro se said they could not afford a lawyer, 18% said they did not wish to spend the money to hire a lawyer, 21% said they believed that their case was simple and therefore they did not need an attorney.[47][48] Also, ABA Legal Needs Study shows that 45% of pro se believe that "Lawyers are more concerned with their own self promotion than their client's best interest."[47]
Accept all complaints, petitions and responses filed, in whatever form, and create user-friendly forms. Among the most obvious of barriers to equal access are rules governing the form of the papers people need to start a lawsuit or defend themselves if they are sued. Complicated pleading rules definitely operate to deny equal access. In fact, a simple plain-English statement of claim (as is used in many small claims courts) or a fill-in-the-blanks, check the boxes type of complaint form used in California courts is all that's needed in most common kinds of cases. Later, the legal and factual issues can be sorted out by a mediator or judge. The Superior Court of Maricopa County has created a number of easy-to-use forms for its Family Court, and by all accounts, people are able to handle them with little help from court personnel.
Settle! Of course, given the unique obstacles involved with litigating against a pro se party—including the absence of the important buffer between the party and his or her emotions and, more times than not, unreasonable expectations—the key to trial success may be avoiding trial altogether! To that end, early alternative dispute resolution proceedings can be exceedingly beneficial. A neutral third party can often insert reasonableness otherwise lacking into the pro se party’s view of the strengths and weaknesses of the case.
There are some notable records of pro se litigants winning more than $2,000 as plaintiffs: Robert Kearns, inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper who won more than $10 million from Ford for patent infringement; Dr. Julio Perez (District of Southern New York 10-cv-08278) won approximately $5 million in a federal jury trial from Progenics Pharmaceuticals for wrongful termination as a result of whistleblowing; Reginald and Roxanna Bailey (District of Missouri 08-cv-1456), a married couple, who together won $140,000 from Allstate Insurance in a federal jury trial; George M. Cofield, a pro se janitor, won $30,000 from the City of Atlanta in 1980; and Jonathan Odom, a pro se prisoner, who while still a prisoner, won $19,999 from the State of New York in a jury trial.[42][43][44] Timothy-Allen Albertson, who appeared in pro. per., was awarded $3,500 in 1981 in a judgment by the San Francisco Municipal Court entered against the Universal Life Church for defamation by one of its ministers.[45]
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
James Traficant, the colorful congressman from Ohio, defended himself twice. The first time was on bribery charges during his time as a local sheriff in the early 80s. He succeeded with a daring argument that his bribe-taking was really part of a corruption investigation that he himself was running. The second time didn't work out so well. He was convicted of some impropriety with campaign funds, got kicked out of the House, and went to prison for several years.
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.
Recently, I saw a commercial in which a man was depicted performing surgery on himself. While that may have been an attention-getter, we all know that we cannot go to the hospital for such a procedure. On the other hand, we can go to the courthouse and pursue our own case. If so, we are said to be proceeding pro se. "Black's Law Dictionary" (eighth edition) defines the term as "For oneself." It describes the person who appears in court on his or her own behalf without a lawyer.

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


Many years ago, after winning a motion, an older judge asked me to stay behind after the parties left. He took me aside and said simply: "I want you to know that the case before yours today was to protect a little girl who's grandfather thinks it's fun to extinguish cigars on her legs." I knew what he wanted me to know, and I never forgot. Other people's cases are serious, too.
Establish Jurisdiction.  To file a lawsuit in a particular court, you must first establish personal jurisdiction. This means that the particular state in which you are filing has authority over the defendants. Personal jurisdiction for a slander claim is typically appropriate wherever the effect of the slanderous statement is felt. In recent U.S. decisions, "targeting" of the forum is also required in order to bring a defendant into court in a certain jurisdiction. This means that the defendant intentionally aimed the defamatory statement at an audience in a certain state.
In May 2001, EDNY began one of the country’s more dramatic pro se reform programs, elevating a magistrate judge to a newly created pro se office focused entirely on overseeing pro se litigation and assigning her broad responsibilities for overseeing pro se litigation.117 These reforms were implemented with the intent to help “facilitate access to the courts” for pro se litigants.118

  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.
“Federal cases are difficult for litigants, who are anxious to begin with and understandably confused by what is a complicated legal process. Even when their cases are potentially meritorious, without legal advice it is very easy for litigants to make mistakes that compromise their cases,” said Tarnofsky. “Thanks to the support of the SDNY, the NYLAG Pro Se Clinic is off to a great start.”
Accept all complaints, petitions and responses filed, in whatever form, and create user-friendly forms. Among the most obvious of barriers to equal access are rules governing the form of the papers people need to start a lawsuit or defend themselves if they are sued. Complicated pleading rules definitely operate to deny equal access. In fact, a simple plain-English statement of claim (as is used in many small claims courts) or a fill-in-the-blanks, check the boxes type of complaint form used in California courts is all that's needed in most common kinds of cases. Later, the legal and factual issues can be sorted out by a mediator or judge. The Superior Court of Maricopa County has created a number of easy-to-use forms for its Family Court, and by all accounts, people are able to handle them with little help from court personnel.
Some courts issue orders against self representation in civil cases. A court enjoined a former attorney from suing the new lover of her former attorney.[29] The Superior Court of Bergen New Jersey also issued an order against pro se litigation based on a number of lawsuits that were dismissed and a failure to provide income tax returns in case sanctions might issue.[30] The Superior Court of New Jersey issued an order prohibiting a litigant from filing new lawsuits.[31] The Third Circuit however ruled that a restriction on pro se litigation went too far and that it could not be enforced if a litigant certified that he has new claims that were never before disposed of on the merits.[32] The 10th Circuit ruled that before imposing filing restrictions, a district court must set forth examples of abusive filings and that if the district court did not do so, the filing restrictions must be vacated.[33] The District of Columbia Court of Appeals wrote that "private individuals have 'a constitutional right of access to the courts',[34] that is, the 'right to sue and defend in the courts'."[35]
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