7Running afoul of Federal Rule 11 has been identified as a problem facing unrepresented litigants pursuing frivolous claims. United States District Court, District of Minnesota, and Federal Bar Association, Minnesota Chapter, Pro Se Project (Minneapolis: United States District Court, District of Minnesota, and Federal Bar Association, Minnesota Chapter, 2016) [LINK]. See also Stienstra et al., Assistance to Pro Se Litigants in U.S. District Courts.
If you’re a Gangster, you’re almost there. You already have more knowledge, experience, skills and confidence than the lesser types. Just realize that you can’t always win with brute force. Add persuasion to your skill set, and fill gaps in your knowledge of protocol and procedure. That way, you won’t need to rely on brute force. That’s how you become a Conqueror.
Don't let the Pro Se form scare you. It's easy! All you have to do is just put it in the computer and fill in the bold parts that are in parentheses. If you do not have a computer, then use the "blank" pro se. We have an example copy included for your convenience. Keep the example copy with you at your side as a guideline. Once you have the disk copy in your computer and the example copy in front of you, just follow these suggestions and you're on your way:
6. If you have a paragraph 18 and 19, then you might want to add a paragraph 20 that might read something like this, "Other commercial facilities similar to the defendant's have made similar modifications, like what we ask here. Defendant could easily make his business accessible but has chosen not to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act." You might also want to add a 20a that reads, "to assist businesses with complying with the ADA, Congress has enacted a tax credit for small businesses, and a tax deduction available to all businesses."
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.
Your Day in Court. This is a video clip from King County, Washington featuring Judge Mary Yu and Stephen Gonzalez. Judge Yu explains the basic layout of the courthouse and Judge Gonzalez talks about courtroom procedure. The information in this video is designed for pro se users of the King County court system but it is general enough that court users in any state can benefit from viewing it.
In an ideal world, every defendant in a debt collection lawsuit would be represented by a lawyer. Practically speaking, however, most low income New Yorkers who have been sued over a debt will be unable to obtain free legal representation. And hiring a private attorney will often cost almost as much, if not more than, the debt itself. Unfortunately, most low income New Yorkers have no choice but to represent themselves in court.
The United States judicial system is designed to be adversarial, to resolve disputes of fact and law before a neutral judge.1 The premise of the system is that each party in a court case is capable of understanding and using the law, since each must present the law and the facts to the judge. An effective adversarial system requires the presence of legally trained experts, typically lawyers, on both sides of a case.
The inconsistent character embodies a contradiction that isn’t just a jumble but a tension that can resolve into something else. The confidence-man is trust and mistrust at once, a number of different people in one, an impossible ability to transform—and also the exact symbol of an emerging market society, the no-man and everyman you need to both trust and mistrust in order to exist under capitalism. But, in another intrusion, Melville asks:
There are also freely accessible web search engines to assist pro se in finding court decisions that can be cited as an example or analogy to resolve similar questions of law. Google Scholar is the biggest database of full text state and federal courts decisions that can be accessed without charge. These web search engines often allow pro se to select specific state courts to search.
Remember this phrase: Litigation Privilege. The phrase has a formal meaning, but in layman’s language it means that lawyers can do just about anything, especially to a self-represented litigant, to protect their clients. They can lie, steal, cheat–and kill if they could get away with it–to win. Lawyers don’t always need tricks to defeat pro se litigants, but they try them anyway. They can scare defendants into paying more than they owe or settling for far less than they deserve. They’ll use a request for admissions to make pro se litigants “admit” to undeserved liability by not answering. Some will even attempt to keep away your court reporter by lying to you or to your court reporting agency. So keep your eyes open when you’ve cornered a lawyer. Chances are, there’s a trick coming, and when it does, don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Stay focused on your case. Reacting in anger by moving for sanctions, writing letters to the judge, reporting lawyer behavior in a hearing, or moving to disqualify a lawyer makes thinking and strategizing difficult. That’s not to say certain issues shouldn’t be addressed. If you must take an issue head-on, like moving for sanctions, do it strategically so you’ll get the most out of it. Otherwise, only address lawyer antics and judicial bias when it hurts your case, not when it hurts your feelings.
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.
Clarence Earl Gideon was too poor to afford an attorney and thus proceeded pro se in his criminal trial in Florida in 1961. He was found guilty and subsequently appealed. He was appointed counsel (his attorney, Abe Fortas, later became a Supreme Court Justice) when the case reached the U.S. Supreme Court; the court ruled in Gideon v. Wainwright that the right to counsel means that states are required to provide counsel free of charge to indigent defendants in all criminal cases and that Florida's failure to appoint such counsel in Gideon's case constituted a violation of that right. On remand, Gideon was represented in the new trial, and was acquitted.
To fulfill their role as neutral deciders in an adversarial legal system, judges need lawyers. Unrepresented litigants tax the court system and burden the people who work in it. Judges around the country, of all political stripes, are resolute in their support of civil legal aid. Judges support civil legal aid because they value equal justice and the protection of the disadvantaged. They support legal aid because it assists in the efficient and effective administration of the courts they run. They also support legal aid out of self-interest, because it makes their work lives less threatened and more effective.
Narrow exceptions to this principle have also been suggested by other courts in the United States. For example, according to one district court a state-licensed attorney who is acting as pro se may collect attorney's fees when he represents a class (of which he is a member) in a class action lawsuit, or according to another court represents a law firm of which he is a member. In each of those instances, a non-attorney would be barred from conducting the representation altogether. One district court found that this policy does not prevent a pro se attorney from recovering fees paid for consultations with outside counsel. Pro se who are not state-licensed attorneys cannot bring up a class action lawsuit.
Here we test a novel self-compassion account that links these two theoretical self-affirmation perspectives. Specifically, we posit that self-affirmation activities increase feelings of self-compassion, characterized by increased self-directed feelings of sympathy and love, and reductions in feelings of vulnerability and criticism (cf. Neff, 2003a; Leary et al., 2007). Our self-compassion account is consistent with the existing theoretical frameworks for self-affirmation: increasing self-compassion is one form of boosting one’s self-image (i.e., the self-resources perspective), and is associated with increased feelings of love and connection (i.e., the self-transcendence perspective; cf. Neff, 2003a). But this self-compassion perspective provides new specificity to these previous theoretical accounts by positing that the self-affirmation self-image boost is about feeling more compassion toward the self (and is not a general self-esteem boost as suggested by the self-resources perspective; Neff and Vonk, 2009), and that compassionate feelings engendered by self-affirmation are not other-directed (as suggested by the self-transcendence perspective), but directed toward the self. It is difficult, however, to disentangle whether these feelings stimulated through values affirmation are directed toward the self or toward others, and furthermore, it’s possible that compassionate feelings toward the self may generate compassion for others. Indeed, one important aspect of a self-compassionate attitude is the recognition of oneself as part of the human condition (Neff, 2003a); this sense of shared humanity may be encouraged by writing about important values, consistent with the self-transcendence perspective, but we suggest that the source of these feelings is a boost in self-compassion.
A manipulation check confirmed that participants in the experimental condition identified with their chosen value and found meaning through the writing exercise as compared to the control group. Affirmed participants strongly agreed that the value they wrote about was important to their self-identity (M = 5.67; SD = 0.39), while control participants disagreed (M = 3.40, SD = 0.93) [F(1,73) = 196.32, p < 0.0005], indicating that affirmed participants found personal value in their topic.
27National Center for State Courts, Call to Action: Achieving Civil Justice for All (Williamsburg, Va.: National Center for State Courts, 2016), 37 [LINK]; Rob Faucheux, “By the Numbers: Americans Lack Confidence in the Legal System,” The Atlantic, July 6, 2012 [LINK]; and GBA Strategies, “2017 State of the State Courts–Survey Analysis,” November 15, 2017 [LINK].
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.