Their rights notwithstanding, pro se litigants create many obstacles for our judicial system as a whole. Indeed, pro se lawsuits are viewed by many as “a type of litigation that’s just riddled with problems on every level.” Lois Bloom, Statement at Pro Se Litigation Panel Discussion, National Workshop for District Judges I (Fed. Judicial Ctr. Mar. 22, 1995). As one commentator has stated,
Great advice! Every point you have made about lawyers and their tricks, I have experienced. One of the greatest failures of the lower courts is the acceptance of inadequate documentation because they go unchallenged. The court is not going to do your work or come to your rescue as you may think. If the document is a not original or is forged, it is up to you to make the case. Even if the judge can see that a document may have an obvious forgery, you must still make the case against it.
All of these challenges are made worse by the disparity in education between lawyers and many low-income individuals, who generally read at lower reading levels and are more comfortable with oral communication, in particular by relating stories. The American justice system depends on written rules and on written orders and decisions, written at a reading level much higher than that of the average low-income litigant. Without a lawyer (or other kind of legal problem-solver) to explain the rules, navigate the legal process, and translate orders and decisions into accessible terms, a low-income litigant is likely to be lost in the system and to lose his case.11
Refrain from feeling like everything you've ever achieved has been accomplished through sheer luck and no hard work. Things happen for a reason, and more often than not, we are the ones making things happen--even when we don't realize it. Our smallest actions have more power than we think, so don't fall into the trap of self-doubt. Know you deserve to be where you are, and own it.
There are some notable records of pro se litigants winning more than $2,000 as plaintiffs: Robert Kearns, inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper who won more than $10 million from Ford for patent infringement; Dr. Julio Perez (District of Southern New York 10-cv-08278) won approximately $5 million in a federal jury trial from Progenics Pharmaceuticals for wrongful termination as a result of whistleblowing; Reginald and Roxanna Bailey (District of Missouri 08-cv-1456), a married couple, who together won $140,000 from Allstate Insurance in a federal jury trial; George M. Cofield, a pro se janitor, won $30,000 from the City of Atlanta in 1980; and Jonathan Odom, a pro se prisoner, who while still a prisoner, won $19,999 from the State of New York in a jury trial. Timothy-Allen Albertson, who appeared in pro. per., was awarded $3,500 in 1981 in a judgment by the San Francisco Municipal Court entered against the Universal Life Church for defamation by one of its ministers.
A longstanding and widely practiced rule prohibits corporations from being represented by non-attorneys, consistent with the existence of a corporation as a "person" separate and distinct from its shareholders, officers and employees. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled that a "nonlawyer may not sign and file a notice of appeal on behalf of a corporation. Requiring a lawyer to represent a corporation in filing the notice does not violate the guarantee that any suitor may prosecute or defend a suit personally. A corporation is not a natural person and does not fall within the term "any suitor."