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:
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.
Over 90% of all lawsuits are resolved without a trial. If you and your adversary can arrive at a fair resolution without going to trial, you can save yourself time and money. By showing you how to prove and disprove legal claims, this book can help you arrive at a fair resolution of your dispute using settlement procedures. For a complete discussion of settlement, see Chapter 6.
The Pro Se Education Program helps you learn about the divorce and parentage process. It will educate you about your responsibilities during the court process. It will help you understand court procedures and what forms you need to fill out. You will also learn about services available to help with problems affecting families. Anyone may attend, whether or not they are a party to a case. Classes are free.
In order to evaluate the effects of different pro se reform measures undertaken by district courts, this Section compares the win rates of pro se litigants in courts that have enacted each of the reforms discussed in the FJC Survey with the win rates of litigants in the districts that have not enacted those same reforms. Table 3A compares the win rates for plaintiffs in cases in which both parties are represented with those in which either the plaintiff or defendant is pro se based on whether the district court employs a particular policy.
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.
The Connecticut Supreme Court narrowed criminal defendant's right to self representation, stating that "we are free to adopt for mentally ill or mentally incapacitated defendants who wish to represent themselves at trial a competency standard that differs from the standard for determining whether such a defendant is competent to stand trial". A Senior Assistant State's Attorney explained that the new standard essentially allows judges to consider whether the defendants are competent enough to perform the skills needed to defend themselves, including composing questions for voir dire and witnesses.
The employees of the Prothonotary's Office are not attorneys, and they are not permitted to give legal advice or show you how to process your case. Some court staff may not know the answers to all questions about court rules, procedures and practices, and because we do not want to give you incorrect information, we will not answer questions if we do not know the correct answer.
So even if it seems highly unfair, do not be surprised if you encounter initial hostility from court personnel. In your eyes, you are an individual seeking justice and doing what you have a right to do. But to the people who work in courthouses every day, you may be perceived as someone who will make their jobs more difficult. Instead of helping you, they may even attempt to put obstacles in your path, hoping that you will get discouraged and go away.
Many states have amended their court procedures to make litigation less of a challenge for self-represented parties. For example, the New York State Courts’ “eTrack System” allows civil litigants to file court papers electronically, sign up for free reminders about court appearances, and receive e-mail notifications whenever a court updates their case file. New York has also established a website that contains information about legal procedures, a glossary and court forms. Visit www.nycourthelp.gov.
According to the National Center for State Courts 2006 report, in the United States, many state court systems and the federal courts are experiencing an increasing proportion of pro se litigants. Estimates of the pro se rate of family law overall averaged 67% in California, 73% in Florida's large counties, and 70% in some Wisconsin counties. In San Diego, for example, the number of divorce filings involving at least one pro se litigant rose from 46% in 1992 to 77% in 2000, in Florida from 66% in 1999 to 73% in 2001. California reports in 2001 that over 50% of family matters filings in custody and visitation are by pro se litigants. In the U.S. Federal Court system for the year 2013 approximately 27% of civil actions filed, 92% of prisoner petitions and 11% of non-prisoner petitions were filed by pro se litigants. Defendants in political trials tend to participate in the proceedings more than defendants in non-political cases, as they may have greater ability to depart from courtroom norms to speak to political and moral issues.