Why file a Pro Se complaint? As the chair of an advocacy group called the Disability Action Crew (DAC), I have lots of information to help others advocate for access. With every question I get asked about advocacy, it seems I often end up with more questions that go unanswered. It's like a coach trying to beat a team that makes all the rules as the game goes along. He's out there, he's trying to win, but every time he goes for the goal there's a different set of rules. Advocacy's like that‹we don't know the rule of winning access until we break them. And we look to authorities for the answers: the DOJ, the EEOC, the HRC, the DOT.
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."
The confidence-man occupies the point of slippage between trust and distrust. If you distrust me, he says, you must distrust all men, and what a wretched way to live that would be. If you trust all men, he says, and I am a man, you must trust me. As he argues, he relies on an image of humanity in the abstract that is to be trusted, and from that he derives his own trustworthiness. This is the same move we have to make to have trust under capitalism. In a pre-modern community, trust is always specific, given to particular individuals based on a complex network of social ties. Under capitalism, trust is generalized, given to people and things on the basis of their being instances of abstract conditions. A dollar bill, a brand of product, an anonymous stranger are all trustworthy because of their resemblance to other things, not their specific qualities.

A longstanding and widely practiced rule prohibits corporations from being represented by non-attorneys,[17] consistent with the existence of a corporation as a "person" separate and distinct from its shareholders, officers and employees.[18] 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."[19][20][21]
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

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]


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
Some courts issue orders against self representation in civil cases. A court enjoined a former attorney from suing the new lover of her former attorney.[27] The Superior Court of Bergen New Jersey also issued an order against pro se litigation based on a number of lawsuits that were dismissed and a failure to provide income tax returns in case sanctions might issue.[28] The Superior Court of New Jersey issued an order prohibiting a litigant from filing new lawsuits.[29] The Third Circuit however ruled that a restriction on pro se litigation went too far and that it could not be enforced if a litigant certified that he has new claims that were never before disposed of on the merits.[30] The 10th Circuit ruled that before imposing filing restrictions, a district court must set forth examples of abusive filings and that if the district court did not do so, the filing restrictions must be vacated.[31] The District of Columbia Court of Appeals wrote that "private individuals have 'a constitutional right of access to the courts',[32] that is, the 'right to sue and defend in the courts'."[33]
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