Few places in Melville’s day could be more representative of a market society than a Mississippi steamboat. It is a place in a constant state of flux. Arrivals, departures, and the passage from one port to the next create a stream of strangers, an environment in which all interactions are constrained by the impermanence of the contact between the parties. Melville’s description of the boat is almost Heraclitean:
So, you have to decide what your goal is: (1) To post your complaint on the web in all its vitriolic splendor and go down in a blaze of glory or (2) to win your case. If its the former, go for it! If its the latter, get some help to draft a complaint in law talk, keep it simple, and go for the bucks you need to survive. You can do that, and still keep the street war going in a forum other than the courtroom. That's the win-win approach.
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.
Clarence Earl Gideon, a man who could not afford to hire an attorney to represent him, appeared in a Florida court in 1961, after being accused of felony breaking and entering, requesting that the court appoint counsel to represent him. The state court denied his request, stating that Florida state law allowed the appointment of counsel only if the defendant has been accused of a capital offense. Gideon, who was forced to act pro se was convicted of the crime and sentenced to 5 years in prison.
Clerk’s staff and judges in Brooklyn now refer pro se litigants to a new on-site center called the Pro Se Legal Assistance Project. There, a small legal staff from the New York City Bar Justice Center helps clients more effectively pursue their cases. The center assists with strategizing, document drafting and procedural guidance, but does not directly represent litigants in court.
(6) A judge should not make public comment on the merits of a matter pending or impending in any court. A judge should require similar restraint by court personnel subject to the judge’s direction and control. The prohibition on public comment on the merits does not extend to public statements made in the course of the judge’s official duties, to explanations of court procedures, or to scholarly presentations made for purposes of legal education.
Alternatively, as suggested by previous theorizing and research (Sherman and Cohen, 2006), we tested whether changes in overall state positive affect could explain increased helping behavior (Isen and Levin, 1972). We created a composite measure of state positive affect (five items: hopeful, secure, joyful, confident, and open; pre α = 0.77, post α = 0.84) before and after the affirmation writing manipulation. The self-affirmation group did not have greater increases in general positive affect [as assessed by a one-way ANOVA on the composite state positive affect change score: F(1,50) = 0.05, p = 0.83] compared to the control group, indicating that changes in state positive affect is not a viable mediator.
Not surprisingly, this disparity in legal knowledge and skill on the part of pro se litigants produces a host of unique problems for the courts and the bar in general and, in particular, for trial counsel. Nevertheless, despite the many challenges they bring to the table, pro se litigants are here to stay, and their numbers are steadily growing. According to the National Center for State Courts, the number of pro se litigants in civil cases continues to rise, and there is every reason to believe this trend will continue. https://www.ncsc.org/. In fact, the number of annual non-prisoner pro se filings each year in federal courts alone tops about 25,000 and constitutes a significant section of the federal caseload. Jefri Wood, Pro Se Case Management for Nonprisoner Civil Litigation (Fed. Judicial Ctr. Sept. 28, 2016).
In 2011, the Federal Judicial Conference surveyed federal court clerks offices regarding pro se issues. They found that only 17 of 62 responding judges report that discovery is taken in most non prisoner pro se cases and only 13 reported that discovery is taken in most prisoner pro se cases.:21 In the same survey, 37% of judges found that most pro ses had problems examining witnesses, while 30% found that pro ses had no or few problems examining witnesses.:22 53% found that represented parties sometimes or frequently take advantage of pro se parties.:23 Only 5% reported problems of pro ses behaving inappropriately at hearings.:24 Respondents to the FJC study did not report any orders against non prisoner pro se litigation.