Trial attorneys who are not mindful of the psychological and sociological elements at play when litigating against pro se parties risk exacerbating an already difficult situation by increasing the likelihood of protracted and unfocused litigation, appealable procedural missteps, and unmanaged expectations. Thus, at the outset of the lawsuit, an attorney facing a pro se opponent should make every effort to determine what is motivating the litigation (e.g., hurt feelings, anger, unmitigated expectations) and, if possible, the reason for the lack of representation. Throughout the pretrial process and during trial, a primary objective of counsel should be to strategically allow the pro se litigant to air his or her grievances in such a way as to limit the scope of triable issues while still being satisfied with his or her day in court.
Do I have a basic understanding of how court procedures work? Custody hearings, and court procedures in general, can be quite confusing for first-timers. Parents considering pro se representation usually benefit from attending a couple of court hearings in advance, just to become more familiar with what to expect in court and what proper court etiquette looks like. (And remember: any questions you have about proper court procedures can always be addressed to the court clerk. So seek that person out and develop a friendly rapport with him or her.)
There is every reason to believe that the number of pro se litigants involved in litigation in federal and state courts will continue to rise in the coming years, especially given the courts’ focus on increasing access to pro se parties. Along with this increase, the challenges facing the judicial system and trial counsel involving unrepresented parties will continue to rise, requiring increasingly careful consideration. However, armed with the best practices, trial counsel can help alleviate some of the challenges both sides of the aisle face.
Resource Guide on Serving Self-Represented Litigants Remotely (SRLN 2016). (July 2016). Self-Represented Litigants Network The Resource Guide provides options for courts and other entities interested in providing services to self-represented litigants using means that are not face-to-face, instead of, or in addition to, in-person alternatives such as walk-in services, workshops, and clinics.
(F) Governmental Appointments. A judge may accept appointment to a governmental committee, commission, or other position only if it is one that concerns the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice, or if appointment of a judge is required by federal statute. A judge should not, in any event, accept such an appointment if the judge’s governmental duties would tend to undermine the public confidence in the integrity, impartiality, or independence of the judiciary. A judge may represent the judge’s country, state, or locality on ceremonial occasions or in connection with historical, educational, and cultural activities.
The required briefs, memoranda of law, motions, and pleadings are governed by rules that can be difficult for untrained individuals to comply with.6 Courts sometimes sanction unrepresented litigants who are ignorant of the law or become too emotional in the courtroom for not complying with court rules or for frivolous litigation.7 For these reasons and others, a litigant without an attorney is much more likely to fail than one who is represented.8
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Our mission is to arm our customers with their own legal knowledge and instill a sense of confidence and security in navigating the pro se legal journey. Involvement in a lawsuit, whether brought by you or against, can be a very intimidating, emotional and overwhelming endeavor. Pro Se One Stop Legal Document Services, LLC offers personalized, one-on-one services to allay your fears and arm you with the knowledge to handle your own legal matters with utmost confidence. You will work very closely and personally with your legal document specialist to achieve your goals.
It's an uphill climb! Particularly, when your adversary has a thorough understanding of the rules of evidence, and procedure. You may get some latitude from the court as a pro se, but you may not, as it is up to the judge. Either way, the better question is why don't you have a lawyer on your side? Is it because some lawyers have not seen enough strength in the facts and law in your case? If that's the case, then you have an even steeper climb as you have a difficult case to prove, let alone that it's against a seasoned "high profile" lawyer. If you haven't consulted with an attorney, please do so before you do anything further as a pro se, and perhaps jeopardize your claim irreparably.
^ Kay v. Ehrler, 499 U.S. 432, 435 (1991), citing Gonzalez v. Kangas, 814 F. 2d 1411 (9th Cir. 1987); Smith v. DeBartoli, 769 F. 2d 451, 453 (7th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1067 (1986); Turman v. Tuttle, 711 F. 2d 148 (10th Cir. 1983) (per curiam); Owens-El v. Robinson, 694 F. 2d 941 (3d Cir. 1982); Wright v. Crowell, 674 F. 2d 521 (6th Cir. 1982) (per curiam); Cofield v. Atlanta, 648 F. 2d 986, 987-988 (5th Cir. 1981); Lovell v. Snow, 637 F. 2d 170 (1st Cir. 1981); Davis v. Parratt, 608 F. 2d 717 (8th Cir. 1979) (per curiam).
Or at least R.I.P. for non-lawyer pro se litigants. Just when you thought the Supreme Court season had finally come to a close, the Court released a new rule book this morning. It’s 80 pages long and mostly a rehash, but the addition of Rule 28.8 garnered some attention for finally closing a door on the practice of non-lawyers arguing before the Court.
In response to the shortage of lawyers, despite insufficient resources, many court systems are trying to find ways to level the playing field by making legal forms and processes simpler and easier to use by people without lawyers. Simplification works for some kinds of cases, but it is not a substitute for lawyers when people have complicated substantive or procedural defenses or claims to pursue. Providing a lawyer, or a legal problem-solver, to those who cannot afford one is often the only way to equalize justice. Other forms of legal assistance are helpful and necessary, but they are inadequate to close the gap in access to justice.
23Lorelei Laird, “Judges Reflect on Dealing with Difficult Pro Se Litigants,” ABA Journal, July 31, 2015 [LINK]; Arkansas Access to Justice Commission, “Survey of Arkansas Circuit Court Judges Regarding Self-Represented [Pro Se] Litigants” (Little Rock: Little Rock Access to Justice Commission, 2008) [LINK]; and Allen Baddour, “Civil Pro Se Litigants,” October 2010 [LINK].
An attorney who represents himself or herself in a matter is still considered a pro se litigant. Self-representation by attorneys has frequently been the subject of criticism, disapproval, or satire, with the most famous pronouncement on the issue being British poet Samuel Johnson's aphorism that "the attorney who represents himself in court has a fool for a client."
With that said, some breaches of procedure by a pro se litigant are important, while others are not. To navigate these inevitable breaches to the benefit of a client, counsel must determine how the court generally views such breaches and take steps to ensure the court understands when the breaches are material (e.g., the breach prejudices a party unfairly). However, even potentially armed with such knowledge, the court may have a “tendency to stretch or ignore the procedural rules in the pro se litigant’s favor.” Id. at 50. While counsel can continually remind the court that the pro se litigant must be held to the same standard as an attorney, “some courts may still regard procedural breaches as relatively unimportant.” Id. Thus, it becomes imperative “to convince the court that the procedural breach is a serious matter.” Id. In other words, counsel must educate the court in both a succinct and compelling way—whether through an oral objection or appropriate written means—that the pro se litigant’s procedural failure is unduly prejudicial to counsel’s client, the court, the administration of justice generally, or some or all of these.
Washington Limited Practice Rule. With a goal of making legal help more accessible to the public, the Washington Supreme Court has adopted APR 28, entitled “Limited Practice Rule for Limited License Technicians”. The rule will allow non-lawyers with certain levels of training to provide technical help on simple legal matters effective September 1, 2012.
A fellow advocate member of DAC, our advocacy group, filed her Pro Se in Federal District Court, after waiting and waiting for DOJ to respond. She lives on a low fixed income, and was able to waive the filing fee. Within a week, she received her notification of receipt that her case is now pending in federal court. At the same time she received notification that the inaccessible business was being served the complaint by a federal marshal. Shortly after that, she received a letter from the attorney for the inaccessible business stating that they wanted to settle out of court. Of course!! We settled for full compliance with the ADA.
Depositions: A deposition is a question-and-answer session where a party can ask her opponent questions. Depositions are transcribed by a court reporter (AKA stenographer). Depositions can be expensive, especially if videotaped. Deposition transcripts cost anywhere from $2-5 per page. A single transcript could cost hundreds of dollars. A video copy will cost extra.
Conversely, pro se litigants who make mistakes lose day in and day out, even with minor infractions. This is most often due to lack of knowledge, but judicial bias and lawyer tricks add another layer of peril. Lawyers know how to avoid default judgments, dismissals, and summary judgments. Pro se litigants rarely do. Lawyers skillfully “handle” pro se opposition. Most pro se litigants don’t handle lawyers or their own cases. In the end, most lose and they do so very quickly.
When an individual acts on his own behalf during a legal action, rather than through an attorney, he is considered to be a pro se litigant. This Latin term literally means “advocating on one’s own behalf.” In all jurisdictions in the United States, an individual is allowed to represent himself, whether as the plaintiff or defendant in a civil lawsuit, or as the defendant in a criminal case. To explore this concept, consider the following pro se definition.
To avoid this disaster scenario, you should find out early on whether your opponent has the financial wherewithal to pay you if you win. Do some basic online research (e.g., Google, Bing, etc.) and social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.). Is he employed? Does he drive a nice car? Does he appear to have disposable income (vacations, restaurants, property, possessions)?
If you are a judge interested in teaching a lesson to elementary, middle or high school students, please explore Judges in the Classroom. Proven interactive lesson plans are available for download from the website that focus on the law and legal process. You may also sign up as an interested judge to be contacted if teachers from your area request a judge.
Defendants who choose to appear pro se may do so because they believe they may gain tactical advantages against the prosecutor, such as obtaining sympathy from the jury, the opportunity to personally address the jury and witnesses. Pro se appearances may also delay the trial proceedings and enhance the possibility of a mistrial and a subsequent appeal.