Do your homework and educate the court. It is important, at the outset of a case, for trial counsel to determine if he or she is litigating against a wolf in sheep’s clothing. “When the pro se litigant is really an expert litigant, the court’s sympathy for his presumed inexpertise diminishes markedly.” Scott L. Garland, “Avoiding Goliath’s Fate: Defeating a Pro Se Litigant,” Litigation, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Winter 1998), at 45, 50 (1998). A search of the county or state docket may reveal that the pro se party has actually been involved in numerous lawsuits and maybe has even been deemed a vexatious litigant. Armed with this knowledge, counsel is better equipped to handle both interacting with the self-represented party and convincing the court that the pro se party’s failure to follow the rules warrants sanctions.
The disdain by federal judges against pro se litigants is a serious problem in our country, which the Supreme Court and Congress should rectify. Perhaps some judges have seen too many frivolous pro se lawsuits for their liking. Surely many such lawsuits are not meritorious, and the majority are brought by prisoners. Perhaps this is why some judges read only as far as " pro se" before rolling their eyes.
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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