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.


83. Table 2C simply removes cases classified as “Missing/Unknown” or “Both” from Table 2B and recalculates the percentages. All analyses of cases reaching final judgment in this Comment focus on the subset of case dispositions that commonly reach final judgment. Cases dismissed for want of prosecution, that settle, or that otherwise do not typically receive entry of final judgment on resolution are excluded from these analyses. For more discussion of the calculation methodology, see Appendix: AO Data Processing.
We will start with pro se. That's a Latin term meaning on one's own behalf and in a court setting it refers to persons who present their own cases without lawyers or other representatives. Now some people choose to act pro se because they have legal experience or they're otherwise very confident about their ability to convey their claim or their defence without any assistance. Other people may simply wish to avoid paying attorney's fees and the often exorbitant expenses associated with hiring a lawyer.
If you’re a law student—or plan to go to law school—this book is a useful and easy-to follow guide to the basics of civil procedure and litigation, from initial pleadings and discovery to appeal. The knowledge of general court procedures and fluency with legal terminology that you will gain from reading this book will help you successfully transition to law school and enhance your understanding of assigned casebook readings.
Why are the courts so unfriendly to the self-represented? They weren't always that way; in the first 100 years of our history, the courts dealt equally with all comers. But in the late 19th and early 20th century, the courts came to serve the needs and interests of the legal profession, which took control of them and built a monopoly over who can appear before them as advocates.
One newspaper report from the time suggests Parker did fine, though it was clear he was an amateur. He arrived with a thick pile of notes, wagged his fingers at the justices, and wore striped pants and a cutaway jacket. That was what all lawyers once wore to argue at the court, but it had fallen out of favor for all but government lawyers by the time Parker appeared before the court.

litigant’s interest in personal liberty, not the general interests of litigants in vindicating legal rights, was the critical question in determining whether the litigant has a right to counsel.39 Accordingly, in a blow to civil Gideon activists, the Supreme Court held that there was a “presumption that there is no right to appointed counsel in the absence of at least a potential deprivation of physical liberty,” signaling the Supreme Court’s reluctance to extend the right to counsel to civil litigants.40 Lassiter remains good law.
Some pro se litigants who are federal prisoners are subject to the Prison Litigation Reform Act. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has asserted: ""For over thirteen years, the Prison Litigation Reform Act has denied access to the courts to countless prisoners who have become victims of abuse, creating a system of injustice that denies redress for prisoners alleging serious abuses, barriers that don't apply to anyone else. It is time for Congress to pass legislation to restore the courts as a needed check on prisoner abuse."[36][37] 54% of judges responding to a Federal Judicial Conference survey use videoconferences for prisoner pro se hearings.[16]:29
121. See Bloom and Hershkoff, 16 Notre Dame J L, Ethics & Pub Pol at 493–94 (cited in note 74). About 15 percent of civil cases were pro se cases in 1999, and a substantial percentage of those cases were prisoner pro se cases, so the percent of the docket comprised of nonprisoner pro se cases was relatively close to the typical 9 percent of the federal docket for the time period that Table 2A covers. Further, the bulk of those cases were civil rights cases, employment discrimination cases, and Social Security cases. The former two categories are also the most typical types of nonprisoner pro se litigation in this analysis, as Table 2D shows.

4. If you or your group made any effort to inform business owners in your area about the ADA, you might want to make a Paragraph 18 that will read like this: "On April 22, 1993, the Louisville CIL conducted a free seminar on the ADA, and sent out fliers to all downtown businesses, to educate them about the ADA. The business in question still refused to become accessible. If this is not relevant, just ignore it, and number paragraphs accordingly.
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]
Traditionally, legal representation was an all or nothing deal. If you wanted to hire a lawyer to represent you in a civil case, the lawyer would carry out all the legal tasks that the case required. If you couldn’t afford to—or didn’t want to—turn your entire case over to a lawyer, your only alternative was no lawyer at all: You would be a pro se litigant, representing yourself and single-handedly completing all legal tasks, such as preparing pleadings and appearing in court.
Unlike civil Gideon advocates, reform advocates have been successful in implementing pro se reform. A 2011 survey by the Federal Judicial Center of United States District Courts (“FJC Survey”) found that eighty-seven of ninety responding districts had implemented at least one program or procedure to assist pro se litigants.64 Similar reforms have been undertaken in at least some state and local courts as well.65
If the ALJ rules against you, you typically can appeal within the agency. If the agency’s decision is still unfavorable, you have “exhausted your administrative remedies” and can go to court and file a pleading asking a judge to overturn it. However, the judge who reviews the case will decide it based on the information you provided at the hearing. You won’t be able to present new evidence in court.
I've been accused of overstating former Vice President Joe Biden's potential in the 2020 presidential primary. After all, he's a gaffe-prone septuagenarian who touts occupational licensing reform and maintaining our private health insurance industry. And he's in a Democratic Party led by a socialist who honeymooned in the Soviet Union and a 29-year-old former bartender who believes that "like, the world will end in 12 years" because of climate change.
The primary dataset used in this Comment consists of administrative records of civil cases filed in federal district courts, which are collected and published by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AO).76 The AO dataset includes the district court in which the case was filed, the docket number of each case, the date on which the case was filed, the nature of the suit, the procedural progress of the case at the time the case was disposed of, the manner in which the case was disposed of, the party that the final judgment of the case was in favor of, and whether the plaintiff or the defendant was a pro se party.77
Moreover, this Comment assesses the effects of reforms in federal district courts aimed at helping pro se litigants. It suggests that, despite widespread optimism from numerous stakeholders in the American legal community, reforms to federal district courts intended to improve the pro se litigation process have thus far had a negligible impact on the outcomes of pro se litigation. If the goal is to improve case outcomes for pro se litigants, or to replace the potential positive impact of increased access to counsel at a lower cost, the types of reforms undertaken thus far appear to have been unsuccessful.
Courts across the country are increasing the resources available to the surge of pro se litigants attempting to navigate the judicial system. Courts are not only addressing the legal and procedural obstacles facing pro se litigants, but they are also focusing on “sociological [and] psychological aspects of how unrepresented litigants feel about the overall litigation experience.” Id. at 3. Likewise, attorneys, and civil trial lawyers in particular, must be cautious of the challenges and special considerations involving pro se litigants.

Under New York Rule of Professional Conduct 1.2, as part of getting informed client consent, lawyers must disclose the reasonably foreseeable consequences of limiting the scope of representation. If it’s reasonably foreseeable that during the course of representation, additional legal services may be necessary, limited-scope lawyers must tell clients that they may need to hire separate counsel, which could result in delay, additional expense, and complications.

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.
Many pro se resources come from these sources: local courts, which may offer limited self-help assistance;[62] public interest groups, such as the American Bar Association, which sponsors reform and promotes resources for self-help[citation needed], and commercial services, which sell pre-made forms allowing self-represented parties to have formally correct documents. For example, the Self-Represented Litigation Network (SRLN) is an organization whose web site, srln.org, is dedicated to issues related to self-represented litigation and offers a curated resource library for legal professionals (courts, lawyers, and allies) engaged in pro se litigation. The organization provides no assistance with particular complaints.[63] "Self-help" legal service providers must take care not to cross the line into giving advice, in order to avoid "unauthorized practice of law", which in the U.S. is the unlawful act of a non-lawyer practicing law.[64]
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.
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United States federal courts created the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system to obtain case and docket information from the United States district courts, United States courts of appeals, and United States bankruptcy courts.[68] The system, managed by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, allows lawyers and self-represented clients to obtain documents entered in the case much faster than regular mail.[68] Several federal courts published general guidelines for pro se litigants and Civil Rights complaint forms.[69][70][71][72]

If you have a legal dispute, you may well find yourself involved in an arbitration rather than a trial. One reason is that in many states, judges have the power to order you and your adversary to arbitrate certain kinds of disputes. Or you may have signed an agreement that provides for binding arbitration of all disputes arising under the agreement. For example, if you are an investor who believes a brokerage house violated securities laws while handling your account, a condominium owner who has filed suit against your ­condominium association for unreasonably restricting your right to remodel your unit, or a business­person who wants to sue for breach of a written contract, you may have agreed in writing (in the broker’s agreement, the condominium association’s set of rules, or the business contract) to arbitrate all ­disputes.
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.
attorney-client relationship—whereas approximately two-thirds retained their units after receiving both unbundled legal assistance and representation by counsel.58 Overall, though the body of evidence is still limited, the empirical evidence suggests that providing lawyers for pro se litigants substantially improves case outcomes for those litigants. Critically, this implies that providing adequate access to counsel may substantially improve case outcomes for a meaningful percentage of pro se litigants.59
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.
123. Note that this does not necessarily imply the pro se reforms in EDNY are failing to improve the litigation process for pro se litigants. See notes 97–100 and accompanying text. It is conceivable that, for example, the reforms in EDNY have led to higher average settlement values for pro se plaintiffs and thus improved overall outcomes for pro se litigants. Moreover, there could be important benefits to a litigation process in which pro se litigants feel more fully heard and in which the process is more dignified for pro se litigants. This office could be creating large benefits for pro se litigants in EDNY overall. However, this analysis is restricted to case outcomes. Further, the pro se reforms in EDNY may be making a positive impact in terms of the efficiency side of the equation, helping to dispose of pro se cases more quickly and efficiently than would otherwise be the case and reducing the overall burden of pro se cases on the court despite not improving case outcomes for pro se litigants.
In a California study of family matters, one party appeared pro se in 2/3 of all domestic relations cases and in 40% of all child custody cases in 1991-95. California reports in 2001 that over 50% of the filings in custody and visitation are by pro se litigants. Urban courts report that approximately 80% of the new divorce filings are filed pro se.[2]
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