Handling Cases Involving Self-Represented Litigants: A Benchguide for Judicial Officers. (January 2007). Center for Families, Children, and the Courts. California Administrative Office of the Courts This comprehensive bench guide, the first of its kind, was designed to help judicial officers handle the increase in cases involving self-represented litigants. Twelve chapters of helpful suggestions are provided, along with sample scripts and checklists.


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.
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.
This book explains each step of the civil litigation process from pre-litigation investigation through trial on the merits to give you the best chance of prevailing in your efforts whether you are a plaintiff or a defendant. Its detailed explanations of the various requirements of the litigation process are supported with detailed checklists that insure you leave nothing to chance as you work through the process and help you avoid the costly mistakes pro se litigants commonly make as they fight their lawsuits.
Does my ex have a child custody lawyer? Although the justice system permits parents to represent themselves, we often advise parents to reconsider self-representation if the other parent will be represented by counsel. Parents represented by counsel could be in a more advantageous position. An attorney who understands family law will have specific knowledge that a lay person may lack.

IAALS recently released two new reports focused on the experiences of self-represented litigants in the family court system.  Cases Without Counsel: Research on Experiences of Self-Representation in U.S. Family Court which explores the issues from the litigants' perspective.  Cases Without Counsel: Our Recommendations after Listening to the Litigants outlines recommendations for courts, legal service providers, and communities to best serve self-represented litigants in family cases.
One limitation of Study 1 is that we did not use a validated measure of state self-compassion, but constructed a composite measure of compassionate feelings using theoretically consistent items available from the administered affect checklist. It is possible that our composite self-compassion measure in Study 1 indexes other constructs besides self-compassion. To address this limitation, we conducted Study 2 to test whether self-affirmation increases self-compassion using a validated behavioral measure of self-compassionate feelings in response to a storytelling task (Leary et al., 2007). Moreover, a limitation of our Study 1 findings, like previous studies (Crocker et al., 2008), is that an alternative compassion explanation can be offered – specifically, it is unclear whether the increase in compassionate feelings in Study 1 are directed toward the self (consistent with our self-compassion account) or toward others (or toward both the self and others). Study 2 directly tests this self vs. other-focused compassion account of self-affirmation by manipulating whether participants provide ratings of their compassionate feelings toward their own storytelling video (self) or to the video of a peer (other). Study 2 also provided an opportunity to extend our self-compassion account by testing the role of trait self-compassion in moderating self-affirmation effects (we did not include a trait self-compassion individual difference measure in Study 1, a study limitation). Specifically, participants in Study 2 completed a measure of trait self-compassion (Neff, 2003b; Raes et al., 2011) to test whether self-affirmation effects on self-compassion are moderated by trait self-compassion, such that self-affirmation increases self-compassionate feelings most in participants who have pre-existing low levels of trait self-compassion.
Mediation analyses (Baron and Kenny, 1986) were consistent with the prediction that increases in feelings of compassion explain how self-affirmation increases helping behavior to the shelf-collapse incident. A series of multiple regression analyses showed that change in state self-compassion was an intervening variable for the effects of self-affirmation on increasing pro-social behavior to the shelf-collapse incident. As predicted, greater feelings of compassion predicted greater helping behavior [β = 0.30, t(45) = 2.14, p = 0.04], whereas the path between the self-affirmation manipulation predicting helping behavior was no longer significant [β = 0.21, t(45) = 1.52, p = 0.14; Figure ​Figure22]. The significance of the indirect (mediating) effects of self-compassion was confirmed using an SPSS bootstrapping procedure (Preacher and Hayes, 2004); the indirect effect estimate of feelings of self-compassion was 0.43, with the 95% confidence interval not encompassing 0 (0.06–1.01), indicating a significant mediation effect. We also tested whether feelings of compassion mediate the relationship between self-affirmation condition and charitable giving on the spending survey. Controlling for family income, greater feelings of self-compassion did not predict increased hypothetical charitable giving [β = -0.10, t(48) = -0.78, p = 0.44], and the path between the self-affirmation manipulation predicting charitable giving remained significant [β = 0.35, t(48) = 2.54, p = 0.01].
Though her voyage of twelve hundred miles extends from apple to orange, from clime to clime, yet, like any small ferry-boat, to right and left, at every landing, the huge Fidele still receives additional passengers in exchange for those that disembark; so that, though always full of strangers, she continually, in some degree, adds to, or replaces them with strangers still more strange; like Rio Janeiro fountain, fed from the Corcovado mountains, which is ever overflowing with strange waters, but never with the same strange particles in every part.
In some types of cases, not having counsel can make a dramatic difference. Take the example of low-income tenants facing eviction. Across the county, roughly 90 percent of landlords are represented by counsel, while 90 percent of tenants are not. Simply having a lawyer increases the odds of being able to stay in one’s home. When tenants represent themselves in New York City, they are evicted in nearly 50 percent of cases. With a lawyer, they win 90 percent of the time.
A judge should avoid lending the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others. For example, a judge should not use the judge’s judicial position or title to gain advantage in litigation involving a friend or a member of the judge’s family. In contracts for publication of a judge’s writings, a judge should retain control over the advertising to avoid exploitation of the judge’s office.
James Traficant, the colorful congressman from Ohio, defended himself twice. The first time was on bribery charges during his time as a local sheriff in the early 80s. He succeeded with a daring argument that his bribe-taking was really part of a corruption investigation that he himself was running. The second time didn't work out so well. He was convicted of some impropriety with campaign funds, got kicked out of the House, and went to prison for several years.
Reflecting on an important personal value in a self-affirmation activity has been shown to improve psychological functioning in a broad range of studies, but the underlying mechanisms for these self-affirmation effects are unknown. Here we provide an initial test of a novel self-compassion account of self-affirmation in two experimental studies. Study 1 shows that an experimental manipulation of self-affirmation (3-min of writing about an important personal value vs. writing about an unimportant value) increases feelings of self-compassion, and these feelings in turn mobilize more pro-social behaviors to a laboratory shelf-collapse incident. Study 2 tests and extends these effects by evaluating whether self-affirmation increases feelings of compassion toward the self (consistent with the self-compassion account) or increases feelings of compassion toward others (an alternative other-directed compassion account), using a validated storytelling behavioral task. Consistent with a self-compassion account, Study 2 demonstrates the predicted self-affirmation by video condition interaction, indicating that self-affirmation participants had greater feelings of self-compassion in response to watching their own storytelling performance (self-compassion) compared to watching a peer’s storytelling performance (other-directed compassion). Further, pre-existing levels of trait self-compassion moderated this effect, such that self-affirmation increased self-compassionate responses the most in participants low in trait self-compassion. This work suggests that self-compassion may be a promising mechanism for self-affirmation effects, and that self-compassionate feelings can mobilize pro-social behaviors.
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."
Genius often makes itself known in short bursts, so don't let it go when it comes around. If you have a great idea for a new work process, a recipe to try, or even a way to drive more efficiently, write it down. This way, you'll remember the strokes of genius that fleetingly pass through, and you'll be able to look back on them and remind yourself of the little things when you're feeling down.
Money changes people, but it also is changed itself. All cash is change. In Debt: The First 5,000 Years, David Graeber, drawing on British classicist Richard Seaford’s Money and the Early Greek Mind, suggests a link between the history of coinage and that of philosophy. The Greek city of Miletus was, around 600 BC, perhaps the first city where coins instead of credit were used in daily life. Around the same time, Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes were arguing that there was a universal substance that could turn into everything else—water, or air, or a special substance called the apeiron. They theorized that this material could, under different conditions, be transmuted into anything. The analogy is clearer if you think of gold as the universal substance The metal in a coin has its own physical characteristics, as do seashells or fire or the enormous stone disks of the isle of Yap. Owing to particular social circumstances, that metal has an additional property of being exchangeable for anything, provided you have enough of it and someone else has and will give up what you want. But here one runs into a contradiction that's vexed thinkers since the Axial Age. Are there fixed, natural reasons for gold to be worth something, or is it an arbitrary social convention? It’s been very important to a number of people to insist that there’s a particular value embodied in gold. This is a question about how much you can trust money.
Pierre loves his mother like a sister, his sister like a wife, and his ex-fiance like a cousin. Plus two romantic friendships with a male cousin and boyhood friend. This is an insane book, beautifully written, poetic and philosophical, with one of the most sudden, craziest feel bad endings I've seen since Dostoevsky's The Demons. In the last few chapters there is one murder, two suicides, and one death by shock/heartbreak.
The Pro Se Education Program helps you learn about the divorce and parentage process. It will educate you about your responsibilities during the court process. It will help you understand court procedures and what forms you need to fill out. You will also learn about services available to help with problems affecting families. Anyone may attend, whether or not they are a party to a case. Classes are free.
Pierre loves his mother like a sister, his sister like a wife, and his ex-fiance like a cousin. Plus two romantic friendships with a male cousin and boyhood friend. This is an insane book, beautifully written, poetic and philosophical, with one of the most sudden, craziest feel bad endings I've seen since Dostoevsky's The Demons. In the last few chapters there is one murder, two suicides, and one death by shock/heartbreak.
Pierre loves his mother like a sister, his sister like a wife, and his ex-fiance like a cousin. Plus two romantic friendships with a male cousin and boyhood friend. This is an insane book, beautifully written, poetic and philosophical, with one of the most sudden, craziest feel bad endings I've seen since Dostoevsky's The Demons. In the last few chapters there is one murder, two suicides, and one death by shock/heartbreak.

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).
Judges also support greatly increased funding for lawyers in civil cases for litigants who cannot afford representation out of self-interest. Most local and state judges are elected or appointed to serve for a specified term, to which they may be either reelected or reappointed.21 They are periodically evaluated by the public or the appointing authority. Judges perceived as showing partiality – for example, by providing permitted assistance to unrepresented litigants – may lose elections or reappointments. Judges’ careers can be marred by complaints from unrepresented litigants who, because they do not have the benefit of legal advice, have unreasonable expectations about courts and law.22 The presence of lawyers on both sides of a case insulates judges from perceptions of impartiality and from litigant complaints.
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
Under this Canon, harassment encompasses a range of conduct having no legitimate role in the workplace, including harassment that constitutes discrimination on impermissible grounds and other abusive, oppressive, or inappropriate conduct directed at judicial employees or others. See Rules for Judicial-Conduct and Judicial-Disability Proceedings, Rule 4(a)(2) (providing that “cognizable misconduct includes: (A) engaging in unwanted, offensive, or abusive sexual conduct, including sexual harassment or assault; (B) treating litigants, attorneys, judicial employees, or others in a demonstrably egregious and hostile manner; or (C) creating a hostile work environment for judicial employees”) and Rule 4(a)(3) (providing that “cognizable misconduct includes intentional discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, gender, gender identity, pregnancy, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, age, or disability”).
The duty under Canon 2 to act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary applies to all the judge’s activities, including the discharge of the judge’s adjudicative and administrative responsibilities. The duty to be respectful includes the responsibility to avoid comment or behavior that could reasonably be interpreted as harassment, prejudice or bias.
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:

But in the course of my experience, it became very apparent that the deck was stacked against me just because I was proceeding pro se – that is, representing myself, without an attorney. It's hard enough for a layman to win in court as it is, but the apparent disdain and discrimination that courts and judges show toward pro se litigants make it that much harder.
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,[53] or according to another court represents a law firm of which he is a member.[54] 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.[55] Pro se who are not state-licensed attorneys cannot bring up a class action lawsuit.[22]
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