The BIGGEST mistake pro se litigants make is thinking they know more than they do, as a way of overcompensating for lack of confidence. False bravado can lead you into mistakes #2, #3, and #4 on this list and a whole lot more. You don’t bring a court reporter because you don’t feel you need one. You don’t do research because you don’t have time, and you think you know enough. You react to or challenge every lawyer trick because you believe, without any evidence, that it’s the best thing to do. You talk about admiralty law, not because you know anything about it or where it fits into your case, but because you heard someone talk about it. You file the wrong motions in the wrong situations. It’s important to know what you don’t know and act accordingly. Instead of talking about sovereign citizenship, talk about and use civil procedure. Rather than reacting to lawyer antics, judicial bias or a sense of unfairness, focus on your case. Learn it backwards and forwards, and then bring your court reporter. That’s how you win. See Sovereign Citizens Make Pro Se Litigants Look Silly for more about the “problem” with sovereign citizens.
In New Hampshire one party is pro se in 85% of all civil cases in the district court and 48% of all civil cases in the superior court in 2004. In probate court, both sides are unrepresented by lawyers in 38% of cases. In superior court domestic relations cases, almost 70% of cases have one pro se party, while in district court domestic violence cases, 97% of the cases have one pro se party.
Judges also support greatly increased funding for lawyers in civil cases for litigants who cannot afford representation out of self-interest. Most local and state judges are elected or appointed to serve for a specified term, to which they may be either reelected or reappointed.21 They are periodically evaluated by the public or the appointing authority. Judges perceived as showing partiality – for example, by providing permitted assistance to unrepresented litigants – may lose elections or reappointments. Judges’ careers can be marred by complaints from unrepresented litigants who, because they do not have the benefit of legal advice, have unreasonable expectations about courts and law.22 The presence of lawyers on both sides of a case insulates judges from perceptions of impartiality and from litigant complaints.
Canon 2B. Testimony as a character witness injects the prestige of the judicial office into the proceeding in which the judge testifies and may be perceived as an official testimonial. A judge should discourage a party from requiring the judge to testify as a character witness except in unusual circumstances when the demands of justice require. This Canon does not create a privilege against testifying in response to an official summons.
The novel begins on April Fool’s Day, with the boarding of a steamer by a man who is, “in the extremest sense of the word, a stranger.” Over the course of the day, a number of apparitions wink into and out of existence on the same boat peddling several schemes. They might all be the same man, in what Melville calls “his masquerade.” They refer to each other, and each picks up where the last one left off. They talk up stock in something called the Black River Coal Company and ask for donations to the Seminole Widow and Orphan Asylum. Shares in a New Jerusalem founded by “fugitive Mormons” are offered. One, an herb-doctor, sells natural cures with names like the Omni-Balsamic Reinvigorator and the Samaritan Pain Dissuader. Another has a proposal for a World's Charity, funded by a small tax on every member of the human race. He proposes to bring the “Wall Street spirit” to charity, offering contracts for the conversion of the heathens to end the “lethargy of monopoly” which plagues the current missionary system. In his breathless enthusiasm for the power of the market this one could fit right in on the New York Times op-ed page, but all of these charlatans are recognizable American types.
According to the 1996 report on pro se by University of Maryland Law School, 57% of pro se said they could not afford a lawyer, 18% said they did not wish to spend the money to hire a lawyer, 21% said they believed that their case was simple and therefore they did not need an attorney. Also, ABA Legal Needs Study shows that 45% of pro se believe that "Lawyers are more concerned with their own self promotion than their client's best interest."
The plaintiff has to present quite a lot of evidence in order to meet its burden of proof. This evidence is often difficult or expensive for the plaintiff to produce. If your debt is old, or if it has been bought and sold multiple times, evidence of your debt may not exist at all. It is almost always much easier and cheaper for the plaintiff to negotiate a settlement with you than to come up with all the evidence needed to meet the burden of proof. That is why the plaintiff will nearly always want you to agree to a settlement.
“One statistic asserts that 90 percent of Americans will face a lawsuit at some point in their lives,” Zeidwig points out. “Yes, it’s possible to represent yourself in court, but you need to know specifically what to do in order to be best prepared. For example, how much time you have to file documents and such is rigid — if you miss the deadline, you’re in serious trouble.”
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. 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. However, the system charges fees, which were the subject of a class action lawsuit ongoing as of 2019. Several federal courts published general guidelines for pro se litigants and Civil Rights complaint forms.
Some federal courts of appeals allow unrepresented litigants to argue orally (even so nonargument disposition is still possible), and in all courts the percentage of cases in which argument occurs is higher for counseled cases. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court adopted a rule that all persons arguing orally must be attorneys, although the Supreme Court claims it was simply codifying a "long-standing practice of the court." The last non-attorney to argue orally before the Supreme Court was Sam Sloan in 1978.