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.
The Center helps judges and courts advance access to civil justice, especially for poor and low-income individuals, by offering resources on 15 strategies and technical assistance. It works closely with the Conference of Chief Justices, the Conference of State Court Administrators and other national court organizations to implement access-to-justice solutions.

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.[68] 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.[68] However, the system charges fees, which were the subject of a class action lawsuit ongoing as of 2019.[69] Several federal courts published general guidelines for pro se litigants and Civil Rights complaint forms.[70][71][72][73]


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.
Canon 2C. Membership of a judge in an organization that practices invidious discrimination gives rise to perceptions that the judge’s impartiality is impaired. Canon 2C refers to the current practices of the organization. Whether an organization practices invidious discrimination is often a complex question to which judges should be sensitive. The answer cannot be determined from a mere examination of an organization’s current membership rolls but rather depends on how the organization selects members and other relevant factors, such as that the organization is dedicated to the preservation of religious, ethnic or cultural values of legitimate common interest to its members, or that it is in fact and effect an intimate, purely private organization whose membership limitations could not be constitutionally prohibited. See New York State Club Ass’n. Inc. v. City of New York, 487 U.S. 1, 108 S. Ct. 2225, 101 L. Ed. 2d 1 (1988); Board of Directors of Rotary International v. Rotary Club of Duarte, 481 U.S. 537, 107 S. Ct. 1940, 95 L. Ed. 2d 474 (1987); Roberts v. United States Jaycees, 468 U.S. 609, 104 S. Ct. 3244, 82 L. Ed. 2d 462 (1984). Other relevant factors include the size and nature of the organization and the diversity of persons in the locale who might reasonably be considered potential members. Thus the mere absence of diverse membership does not by itself demonstrate a violation unless reasonable persons with knowledge of all the relevant circumstances would expect that the membership would be diverse in the absence of invidious discrimination. Absent such factors, an organization is generally said to discriminate invidiously if it arbitrarily excludes from membership on the basis of race, religion, sex, or national origin persons who would otherwise be admitted to membership.
Good prep for litigation is hard work, like reading cases and statutes and writing concise, precise and persuasive motions and pleadings. Even then, the “tactics in the courtroom” you mention can still go on. So, mentality can be just as important as hard tangible work. Understand that lawyers want to win too, and they’ll do whatever they think it takes to do so. Cutting the ethical edge is just a day at work for some of them. Your job is to not get up in your feelings about any of that stuff. I know that’s difficult to do, and I struggle with it all the time, but it does not help you win. Do the work, understand your arguments and stay on point.
Canon 4. Complete separation of a judge from extrajudicial activities is neither possible nor wise; a judge should not become isolated from the society in which the judge lives. As a judicial officer and a person specially learned in the law, a judge is in a unique position to contribute to the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice, including revising substantive and procedural law and improving criminal and juvenile justice. To the extent that the judge’s time permits and impartiality is not compromised, the judge is encouraged to do so, either independently or through a bar association, judicial conference, or other organization dedicated to the law. Subject to the same limitations, judges may also engage in a wide range of non-law-related activities.
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 video from Washington's judicial branch challenges some mistaken ideas about how courts work by using real person-on-the-street interviews and responses from judges, justices, a court clerk and a state legislator. The video was produced by the Public Trust & Confidence Committee of the Board for Judicial Administration (BJA) in partnership with Washington's public affairs station, TVW, with financial support provided by the Washington State Gender and Justice Commission and Minority and Justice Commission.
Within the boundaries of applicable law (see, e.g., 18 U.S.C. § 953) a judge may express opposition to the persecution of lawyers and judges anywhere in the world if the judge has ascertained, after reasonable inquiry, that the persecution is occasioned by conflict between the professional responsibilities of the persecuted judge or lawyer and the policies or practices of the relevant government.
When pro se litigants feel they are being shut out from the process or that their voices are being stifled, these challenges—and the accompanying risks—are amplified. In fact, studies show that notions of fairness heavily influence and guide pro se litigants. Id. at 4. Indeed, “research has repeatedly established that when litigants perceive that a decision-making process is fair, they are more likely to be satisfied with the outcome.” Self-Represented Litigation Network, Handling Cases Involving Self-Represented Litigants: A National Bench Guide for Judges 2–4 (2008).
In order to be eligible for lawsuit funding from Legalist, you must have an attorney representing your case. A case where a plaintiff represents themselves is considered pro se representation. We do not fund "pro se" cases. To be considered for legal funding, you will usually need a retainer agreement with the attorney that is on a contingency basis. However, at Legalist, we do offer a free Find an Attorney service, whereby you can find a lawyer for your case.
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Researching a business’s financial situation is a bit trickier than a person, but there are still things you can do. Drive past the business. If it is a retail establishment, restaurant, or store, are there people going in and out? Does it appear to be relatively successful? Does it own any equipment, vehicles, or merchandise? Does it have a legitimate website and social media presence? Read any reviews or articles you find relating to that business.
Christa Adkins, the owner of Pro Se One Stop Legal Document Services, LLC, offers highly personalized services to her customers because she has stood in their shoes and knows the fears and frustrations of navigating the legal system alone. Christa is not an attorney, but dedicates her heart and soul to helping other pro se litigants navigate the legal system and fill out their legal documents and forms. Christa has been highly successful in her own pro se endeavors. In 2016, she took her first appeal to the Third District Court of Appeal and successfully had the trial court reversed. Additionally, in 2016 she filed a successful pro se motion for disqualification of the trial judge and the trial judge was removed from her case. In 2017 Christa successfully submitted a pro se Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the Third District Court of Appeal. Her petition was granted.
A judge who is retired under 28 U.S.C. § 371(b) or § 372(a) (applicable to Article III judges), or who is subject to recall under § 178(d) (applicable to judges on the Court of Federal Claims), or who is recalled to judicial service, should comply with all the provisions of this Code except Canon 4F, but the judge should refrain from judicial service during the period of extrajudicial appointment not sanctioned by Canon 4F. All other retired judges who are eligible for recall to judicial service (except those in U.S. territories and possessions) should comply with the provisions of this Code governing part-time judges. However, bankruptcy judges and magistrate judges who are eligible for recall but who have notified the Administrative Office of the United States Courts that they will not consent to recall are not obligated to comply with the provisions of this Code governing part-time judges. Such notification may be made at any time after retirement, and is irrevocable. A senior judge in the territories and possessions must comply with this Code as prescribed by 28 U.S.C. § 373(c)(5) and (d).
An individual’s right to represent himself or herself in federal court is expressly codified in 28 U.S.C. § 1654 (2018), which provides: “In all courts of the United States the parties may plead and conduct their own cases . . . therein.” Similarly, many states have codified the rights of pro se litigants in their respective constitutions and statutes. Drew A. Swank, “The Pro Se Phenomenon,” 19 BYU J. Pub. L. 373, 375 (2005). Indeed, according to the Supreme Court, there is “no evidence that the . . . Framers ever doubted the right of self-representation, or imagined that this right might be considered inferior to the right of assistance of counsel.” Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806, 832 (1975).
FERN A. FISHER is the Special Assistant for Social Justice Initiatives to the Dean at the Maurice A. Deanne School of Law at Hofstra University, and retired Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for the New York City Courts and Director of the New York State Access to Justice Program. She is a founding member of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association and a member and past board member of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and the New York County Lawyers Association.
According to the National Center for State Courts in the United States, as of 2006 pro se litigants had become more common in both state courts and federal courts.[1] Estimates of the pro se rate of family law overall averaged 67% in California, 73% in Florida's large counties, and 70% in some Wisconsin counties.[1] In San Diego, for example, the number of divorce filings involving at least one pro se litigant rose from 46% in 1992 to 77% in 2000, in Florida from 66% in 1999 to 73% in 2001.[1] California reports in 2001 that over 50% of family matters filings in custody and visitation are by pro se litigants.[2] In the U.S. Federal Court system for the year 2013 approximately 27% of civil actions, 92% of prisoner petitions and 11% of non-prisoner petitions were filed by pro se litigants.[3] Defendants in political trials tend to participate in the proceedings more than defendants in non-political cases, as they may have greater ability to depart from courtroom norms to speak to political and moral issues.[4]
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