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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

Privacy Requirements.  Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 5.2 addresses the privacy and security concerns over public access to electronic court files.  Under this rule, papers filed with the court should not contain anyone’s full social-security number or full birth date; the name of a person known to be a minor; or a complete financial-account number.  A filing may include only the last four digits of a social-security number and taxpayer identification number; the year of someone’s birth; a minor’s initials; and the last four digits of a financial-account number.


Late in 2016 NYLAG opened a legal clinic for pro se litigants in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) – one of a handful of federal district courts across the country seeking to make legal assistance available to the large number of civil litigants who come to federal court without an attorney by authorizing and funding an on-site legal clinic.
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”).
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

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]

Though dramatic, these numbers do not necessarily imply that lack of access to counsel worsens case outcomes for pro se litigants. There are a number of plausible explanations for low win rates by pro se litigants even if pro se litigants are not disadvantaged in court. For instance, and likely most significantly, because lawyers frequently work on a contingency fee basis, a lawyer is more likely to agree to work on behalf of a plaintiff with a strong case than a plaintiff with a weak case.84 The stronger the plaintiff’s case, the higher the expected damages and expected payout for the lawyer. Hence, it is less likely that strong cases proceed pro se.
The challenges presented by the large volume of pro se cases in federal district courts may require meaningful changes to achieve a full resolution. In order to make headway on that front, reformers must properly contextualize and understand the nature of pro se litigation in those courts and evaluate the successes and failures of efforts that have been undertaken thus far.
Importantly, this Comment does not suggest that these reforms have been failures. These reforms may have improved the pro se litigation process by making it feel more humane and easier to understand and by giving litigants a stronger sense that their concerns have been heard. Moreover, these reforms may still ease the burden of pro se litigation on courts by helping courts understand the issues involved more clearly or by moving cases through the judicial system more quickly. The analysis does suggest, however, that district court reforms have been ineffective in improving case outcomes for pro se litigants, and alternative approaches should be considered.

According to Boston Bar Association Task Force 1998 report in every court studied by the task force, litigants without lawyers are present in surprising numbers. In some counties, over 75% of the cases in Probate and Family Courts have at least one party unrepresented. In the Northeast Housing Court, over 50% of the landlords and 92% of the tenants appear without lawyers in summary process cases.[40]
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:)
I've spent a lot of time sending accessibility complaints to the DOJ for the "mediation process", which is supposed to be a faster way to get better compliance. No response. I waited and got no response. I'm still waiting for, at the very least, a letter confirming that they received the things, let alone tell me what action, if any, they would be taking. Nothing.

For lawyers, in contrast, the legal system is an array of procedures that begin long before trial (and often continue long afterwards). In fact, few cases ever actually make it to trial. Instead, they settle out of court—or are dismissed—because of these pretrial procedures. Although individually justifiable, collectively these procedures create the potential for adversaries to engage in lengthy “paper wars” that you might find harrowing. Many lawyers are fair and reasonable and will not try to “paper you to death.” Never­theless, you have to realize from the outset that representing yourself effectively is likely to require a substantial commitment of time—even if your case never goes to trial.
Acknowledging the limits described above, this Comment does find that pro se reform in federal district courts has not yet meaningfully impacted case outcomes for pro se litigants, whereas increased access to counsel has had somewhat more promising results in the experimental literature.131 The policy implications of those facts are not immediately clear. These results suggest that increased access to counsel may help pro se litigants vindicate rights; however, the wisdom of that approach depends on whether the costs of that increased access to counsel outweigh the benefits or whether there are cheaper ways to achieve those benefits. One critical question in this vein is whether there are more effective reform opportunities available to courts, because more effective reforms could still conceivably enable improved outcomes for pro se litigants at a lower cost than increased access to counsel. This Comment finds little evidence that measures thus far implemented by courts have improved case outcomes. Hence, merely renewing and expanding similar reforms does not appear to be an especially promising path forward.
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.
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
However, this book cannot serve as a complete guide to all the rules you need to know. For one thing, the exact rule in your court system may be somewhat different from the example we give. In that event, knowing about another similar rule—either a federal rule or another state’s rule—can help you locate the rule in your state. (See Chapter 23 for information on doing your own legal ­research.) Also, each court system has its own procedural rules that, though important, cannot be covered in this book. For example, local court rules set time limits for filing various kinds of documents and page limits on the length of those documents. You will have to learn and comply with these local requirements.
Await Defendant's Answer.  After being served with the complaint, the defendant will have a prescribed amount of time to file an answer. In California, a defendant usually must file a written response within 30 calendar days of being served. In Federal Court, a defendant only has 20 days. A defendant’s answer will typically include defenses, such as truth or expiration of the statute of limitations.  
We’re pro se litigants, and we talk to other pro se litigants all day every day, probably more than any lawyer does. I can tell you no one needs to “pit” pro se’s against lawyers; you guys have that covered. Perhaps if you all would take more seriously your obligation to deliver access to justice, we wouldn’t need to stand in for you. Thanks again for the comment.
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
University of Illinois Law School's Professor Robert Lawless, a national expert in personal credit and bankruptcy, showed that, the rate of non-attorney filings in bankruptcy courts by debtors was 13.8% for chapter 13 cases, and 10.1% for chapter 7 cases. The rate was as high as 30% to 45% for major urban areas, such as California and New York city. US Bankruptcy Court of Arizona reported 23.14% cases filed pro se in October 2011, up from 20.61% a year before.[41]
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