Many pro se resources come from these sources: local courts, which may offer limited self-help assistance; public interest groups, such as the American Bar Association, which sponsors reform and promotes resources for self-help, 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. "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.
17See Self-Represented Litigation Network, “Model Code of Judicial Conduct Provisions on Self-Represented Litigation: Options for Alternative Comment Language Prepared in Support of Potential State Activity in Response to 2012 Resolution 2 of the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators” (Williamsburg, Va.: National Center for State Courts, 2013).
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.
Any waiver of the right to counsel must be knowing, voluntary, and intelligent. The Faretta court stated that "a defendant need not have the skill and experience of a lawyer, but should be made aware of the dangers and disadvantages of self-representation, so that the record will establish that he knows what he is doing and "the choice is made with eyes open." See Faretta. In 2004, the Court acknowledged that it has not prescribed any formula regarding the information a defendant must possess in order to make an intelligent choice. See Iowa v. Tovar, 541 U.S. 77 (2004). According to the Court, determining whether a waiver of counsel is intelligent depends on "a range of case-specific factors, including the defendant's education or sophistication, the complex or easily grasped nature of the charge, and the stage of the proceeding." See Tovar.
Limit the scope of trial. Pursuant to federal and state rules of evidence and procedure, courts are responsible for establishing ground rules to efficiently manage and regulate trial practice and trial testimony. This is especially important when trial involves a pro se party because the lack of substantive and procedural knowledge can create an ever-changing, and often ever-expanding, litigation framework. Accordingly, trial counsel should make use of pretrial briefing mechanisms—including motions in limine and bench memoranda—to limit the issues for trial. Pretrial briefing affords the pro se litigant the opportunity to have his or her voice heard on the issues while efficiently framing the matters for trial. If the rules of court do not impose page limits on the particular mode of briefing being used, trial counsel should ask the court to set a page limit to help focus the discussion. In addition, trial counsel should consider asking the court to allow the parties to submit in advance their questions for direct examination to both limit improper objections and further focus the testimony on relevant, admissible evidence.
My name is Ann Henry. I am a native Mississippian, a graduate of Ole Miss, and a writer and editor of both fiction and nonfiction. I have spent 17 years of my life overseas—mainly in the British West Indies, the South Pacific, and Mexico—and have lived in all four corners of the contiguous United States: Pacific Northwest, Southwest, South Florida, and New England.
A longstanding and widely practiced rule prohibits corporations from being represented by non-attorneys, consistent with the existence of a corporation as a "person" separate and distinct from its shareholders, officers and employees. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled that a "nonlawyer may not sign and file a notice of appeal on behalf of a corporation. Requiring a lawyer to represent a corporation in filing the notice does not violate the guarantee that any suitor may prosecute or defend a suit personally. A corporation is not a natural person and does not fall within the term "any suitor."