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
The best way for a lawyer to understand bias against the self-represented litigant is to become one, an experience I recently went through in a civil proceeding. Even before the judge examined my papers or knew what I was seeking (and whether I was on track to achieve it), he expressed deep skepticism that I could competently handle the case myself. After I stood my ground, the judge warned me that I would be held responsible for meticulously complying with every court rule. Lawyers can also learn a lot by coaching a self-represented person through a judicial procedure. Very quickly, most lawyer-coaches come to appreciate how badly the self-represented are treated by court clerks and judges.
Christa Adkins, the owner of Pro Se One Stop Legal Document Services, LLC, offers highly personalized services to her customers because she has stood in their shoes and knows the fears and frustrations of navigating the legal system alone. Christa is not an attorney, but dedicates her heart and soul to helping other pro se litigants navigate the legal system and fill out their legal documents and forms. Christa has been highly successful in her own pro se endeavors. In 2016, she took her first appeal to the Third District Court of Appeal and successfully had the trial court reversed. Additionally, in 2016 she filed a successful pro se motion for disqualification of the trial judge and the trial judge was removed from her case. In 2017 Christa successfully submitted a pro se Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the Third District Court of Appeal. Her petition was granted.
6. If you have a paragraph 18 and 19, then you might want to add a paragraph 20 that might read something like this, "Other commercial facilities similar to the defendant's have made similar modifications, like what we ask here. Defendant could easily make his business accessible but has chosen not to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act." You might also want to add a 20a that reads, "to assist businesses with complying with the ADA, Congress has enacted a tax credit for small businesses, and a tax deduction available to all businesses."
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.
Unfortunately, the ideal of the multi-door courthouse is at odds with how courts traditionally operate: to support and enhance the lawyer business by making it extremely difficult to get through court without a lawyer. As long as courts are institutionally biased against creating a level playing field for the self-represented, it will make no difference how many doors a court has.
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
Pro se representation presents unique but not insurmountable challenges for claimants and the legal system. In Louisiana, for instance, the Louisiana Court of Appeals tracks the results of pro se appeals against represented appeals. In 2000, 7% of writs in civil appeals submitted to the court pro se were granted, compared to 46% of writs submitted by counsel. In criminal cases the ratio is closer - 34% of pro se writs were granted, compared with 45% of writs submitted by counsel. According to Erica J. Hashimoto, an assistant professor at the Georgia School of Law,:
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.
Self-Representation.—The Court has held that the Sixth Amendment, in addition to guaranteeing the right to retained or appointed counsel, also guarantees a defendant the right to represent himself. this a right the defendant must adopt knowingly and intelligently; under some circumstances the trial judge may deny the authority to exercise it, as when the defendant simply lacks the competence to make a knowing or intelligent waiver of counsel or when his self-representation is so disruptive of orderly procedures that the judge may curtail it. the essential elements of self-representation were spelled out in McKaskle v. Wiggins…