From an initial look at Figure 1, no meaningful change in the outcomes of pro se litigation in EDNY appears in the years following the creation of the pro se magistrate’s office. Instead, for all district courts in the New York area, there is seemingly considerable variance in case outcomes on a yearly basis, with pro se litigants performing very similarly on average in both sets of districts before and after the pro se reform. However, Figure 1 does reflect the possibility that the percent of cases won by pro se plaintiffs in the other New York district courts trended downward more than in EDNY. But this is uncertain. With the exception of 1999, the win rates of pro se litigants are relatively similar in EDNY to New York’s other district courts.
This Part presents an empirical analysis of pro se reforms made in federal district courts. It compares outcomes for pro se litigants in courts that have implemented reforms with outcomes for pro se litigants in courts that have not implemented reforms. The analysis discovers that outcomes are not substantially different in courts that have made these reforms. Hence, this Part suggests that pro se reforms in federal district courts have not impacted outcomes of pro se litigation despite evidence that clerks and judges in those courts believe the reforms are effective at achieving this goal.
Individual lawyers almost always find it difficult to actually see the bias against the self-represented that pervades our courts, just as a few years ago, judges who complimented woman lawyers on their looks were shocked when they were labeled as sexist. Few lawyers are able or willing to come to terms with the fact that a significant portion of their livelihood is based squarely on barriers to self-representation that the courts erect and enforce.
Some states have just one kind of trial court, which hears all sorts of cases. In Illinois, for example, circuit courts hear all kinds of disputes. In other states, by contrast, cases that involve less than a certain dollar amount may be tried in one type of court (municipal, city, or justice court, for example), while larger cases go to another type of court (superior, county, or circuit court, for example).
From October 2016 through September 2017 clinic staff members assisted 874 individuals in a variety of ways. In most cases, staff and volunteers provide advice and counsel, including providing referrals to other services or pro bono attorneys.  In some cases, clinic staff members provide more extensive assistance, such as helping litigants draft court filings.
81. Some reasons that these reforms may impact prisoners differently from nonprisoners include: differences in the types of cases brought, potentially different access to legal resources (depending on the availability of legal materials in prison), different judicial attitudes toward prisoner and nonprisoner pro se litigants, or different levels of access to counsel. Note that this Comment does not definitively suggest these reforms impact nonprisoner and prisoner pro se litigants differently. Instead, it merely suggests there may be differences and limits the scope of this analysis to nonprisoner pro se litigants.
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).
Finally, the book devotes separate chapters to two types of specialized court proceedings. Chapter 21 provides information about hearings in divorce and related family law matters, such as spousal abuse, child custody, child support, and spousal support. Chapter 22 provides information for debtors and creditors about contested hearings that often occur in bankruptcy cases.
This book can guide you through nearly every kind of trial in every court system (state or federal) because the litigation process is remarkably uniform throughout all of them. In part, this is because federal courts and most state courts share a “common law” heritage—a way of trying cases that came over from England and developed along with the country. And, in part, it is because many local procedures are consistent with national legal codes (sets of rules and regulations).
Table 4 suggests that, like the other pro se reforms that Part III considers, the pro se reforms in EDNY have not been effective in improving case outcomes for pro se litigants. The coefficient on the dummy variable indicating whether the EDNY pro se reforms were instituted is -0.59, and the 95 percent confidence interval suggests that there is some nonzero negative effect when no controls are instituted in the first model in column one.128 The results are similar for the second and third models except that, once all districts are controlled for, the negative impact of the reform is statistically significant. When dummies are introduced corresponding to the year of each case filing, this negative effect disappears and the fourth and fifth models indicate no statistically significant impact from the reform. Including the full set of controls for year and district, the 95 percent confidence interval suggests that the reforms in EDNY had an impact of somewhere between -0.43 percent and 0.51 percent on the win rates for pro se litigants, with a statistically insignificant mean estimated impact of 0.04 percent.129 These results suggest that pro se reforms were not effective at improving win rates for pro se litigants.
“In little more than a year the clinic has built confidence in the justice system for many pro se litigants. Our legal staff and volunteers have been able to make the process less confusing for clinic visitors and guide them in the right direction, which improves their chances for satisfactory outcomes,” said Robyn Tarnofsky, the director of the clinic.

63. As an example, pro se reforms could be counterproductive in a streamlined pro se office at a district court that consistently suggests dismissing pro se cases before a full hearing. For a more detailed discussion of entities that have called for civil Gideon rather than pro se trial court reform, and the contexts in which they have done so, see Greiner, Pattanayak, and Hennessy, 126 Harv L Rev at 906–07 (cited in note 47).


Administrative hearings rather than trials typically result when individuals contest decisions made by government agencies, or when government agencies refuse to act favorably on individuals’ requests. Thanks in part to movies and TV, a popular notion is that in the U.S., trials are the most common method of resolving civil disputes. In fact, across the country many more administrative hearings than trials occur.

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]

Though arbitration proceedings are generally less formal than trials, most of the principles ­described in this book also apply to arbitration. As in a trial, you and your adversary present evidence to the arbitrator through your own testimony and the testimony of witnesses. Like a judge, an arbitrator evaluates the credibility and legal significance of evidence to decide whether you win or lose the case.

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.
 Filing of complaints, appearance,  issuance  of summonses, and procedures for collection, garnishments, citations, attachments, and the like, require the parties to pay fees  and/or other "court cost". The Judge  will generally order the  party who loses to pay the "court costs". The defendant may have to pay plaintiff interest on the unpaid judgment at the statutory rate.
Most family divisions of the Vermont Superior Court offer a one-hour program each month. Other divisions offer them quarterly. A lawyer who practices in the family division conducts the program. The lawyer cannot talk to you about the specifics of your case. Instead, you will receive general information about the law and the process. See the schedule below for the county in which you filed your action.
But that shouldn't make a difference, as all cases are to be judged on their merits, not by the persons who bring them. By law, every federal judge must take an oath affirming to "administer justice without respect to person, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich," and to "faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as judge under the Constitution and laws of the United States."
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To process this dataset, first I eliminated all cases filed before January 1, 1998; the analysis in this Comment considers only cases filed after that date. After that, I dropped the following sets of cases: all cases from non-Article III district courts; all cases with a “local question” as the nature of the suit; all cases that are currently still pending and lack a termination date; all cases that have missing values for the case disposition; all observations that have missing values for the nature of the suit; a variety of cases that have a nature of suit variable indicating that the suits are of a peculiar or inconsequential variety;138 certain categories of suits that have the government as a party;139 and cases that are typically filed by prisoners and are considered “prisoner pro se litigation.”140

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
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.
81. Some reasons that these reforms may impact prisoners differently from nonprisoners include: differences in the types of cases brought, potentially different access to legal resources (depending on the availability of legal materials in prison), different judicial attitudes toward prisoner and nonprisoner pro se litigants, or different levels of access to counsel. Note that this Comment does not definitively suggest these reforms impact nonprisoner and prisoner pro se litigants differently. Instead, it merely suggests there may be differences and limits the scope of this analysis to nonprisoner pro se litigants.

Commentators writing about pro se litigation over the past twenty years have typically described pro se litigation as a large and growing portion of the federal docket.79 However, when the scope of the inquiry is limited to nonprisoner pro se litigation, this trend does not show up in the AO data. There has been a meaningful upward trend in the total number of pro se cases. But the percent of cases brought by pro se plaintiffs has not changed significantly, as seen in Table 2A, suggesting pro se litigation comprises a relatively stable portion of the federal docket.
The Supreme Court noted that "[i]n the federal courts, the right of self-representation has been protected by statute since the beginnings of our Nation. Section 35 of the Judiciary Act of 1789, 1 Stat. 73, 92, enacted by the First Congress and signed by President Washington one day before the Sixth Amendment was proposed, provided that 'in all the courts of the United States, the parties may plead and manage their own causes personally or by the assistance of counsel.'"[5]
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