Shauna Strickland. Virginia Self-Represented Litigant Study: Outcomes of Civil Cases in General District Court, Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court, and Circuit Court. (December 2017). This report characterizes Circuit Court civil cases by analyzing caseload composition, the presence of legal representation, the level of case contention, and case outcomes.
Our research makes clear that the large number of unrepresented citizens overwhelming the nation’s courts has negative consequences not only for them but also for the effectiveness and efficiency of courts striving to serve these and other segments of the community who need their disputes resolved. More staff time is required to assist unrepresented parties. In the absence of a fair presentation of relevant facts, court procedures are slowed, backlogs of other court cases occur, and judges confront the challenge of maintaining their impartiality while preventing injustice.20
I truly do appreciate the work you do and the information you provide as this is a great service to "all" citizens. Certainly more "legal information" is needed to increase "legal literacy" in the world today. I am amazed that you are able to respond so quickly given your "one man" operation. The "legacy" you are leaving by promoting "legal education" is important to this generation as well as future generations and I commend you for your efforts to impart of your knowledge. ... Leonard S.

Persons to whom this Code applies should arrange their financial and fiduciary affairs as soon as reasonably possible to comply with it and should do so in any event within one year after appointment. If, however, the demands on the person's time and the possibility of conflicts of interest are not substantial, such a person may continue to act, without compensation, as an executor, administrator, trustee, or other fiduciary for the estate or person of one who is not a member of the person's family if terminating the relationship would unnecessarily jeopardize any substantial interest of the estate or person and if the judicial council of the circuit approves.


The center’s approach, known as “limited-scope legal assistance,” can fill an important void. Most federal courts devote substantial resources to pro se litigants, such as handbooks and staff time answering process questions, and pro se staff attorneys help judges process cases. But court staff may not give legal advice to litigants, and although private lawyers offer some volunteer assistance, they cannot meet demand.
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
If you ignore the summons, the plaintiff will almost certainly ask the court to award a judgment against you.  This kind of judgment is called a “default judgment.”  A default judgment usually awards the plaintiff everything that it asked for in the complaint, plus interest and court costs.  The judgment will appear on your credit report, and it can stay there for up to twenty years if not satisfied.  The judgment also gives the plaintiff the right to try to collect money from you by freezing your bank account or garnishing your wages.  You can avoid a default judgment by filing an answer and appearing in court.
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.

"It can be beneficial for self-represented litigants to work informally with one another and with other nonattorneys to acquire and spread information about navigating the eviction process.  We acknowledge, of course, that it is unlawful for any nonattorney to engage in the unauthorized practice of law -- for instance, by signing and filing a complaint on behalf of an unrepresented litigant.  ...But there are plenty of ways for nonattorneys to assist litigants without venturing into the unauthorized practice of law.  ... In a complex, high-stakes process where the right to counsel is not guaranteed and professional assistance is not universally available, the assistance provided by nonattorneys may be the only way for many litigants to learn about and assert their rights."
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.

*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state.
Telling someone “Trust me” is usually a dead giveaway that they should do exactly the opposite. A trustworthy person doesn’t need to insist on it. Professions of the need for trust are a pretty good sign that someone is trying to sell you something. Herman Melville’s The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade, the last novel he published in his lifetime, which met with scathing and uncomprehending reviews, plays around with this theme. It’s a disorienting string of loosely connected scenes, tracking the schemes of a shapeshifting trickster aboard a Mississippi steamboat who solicits his fellow passengers through a variety of pitches, always insisting on the need for confidence in the goodness of the world.
Judges support civil legal aid as a means of ensuring that the most vulnerable people in society can have decent, safe, and healthy lives. Adversarial proceedings regularly involve basic human needs, such as shelter, food, safety, health, and child custody. They regularly affect vulnerable groups such as senior citizens, domestic violence victims, and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
[p]ro se litigation is difficult for us to handle at least in part because it doesn’t fit into the neat box of our traditional system of litigation, the adversarial method of resolving disputes. That system assumes that the parties know the law, are adept at procedure and the rules of evidence, and can marshal significant facts, present their side of the case to the factfinder thoroughly and lance the arguments of the opponent. But pro se litigants are capable of little if any of that.
The BIGGEST mistake pro se litigants make is thinking they know more than they do, as a way of overcompensating for lack of confidence. False bravado can lead you into mistakes #2, #3, and #4 on this list and a whole lot more. You don’t bring a court reporter because you don’t feel you need one. You don’t do research because you don’t have time, and you think you know enough. You react to or challenge every lawyer trick because you believe, without any evidence, that it’s the best thing to do. You talk about admiralty law, not because you know anything about it or where it fits into your case, but because you heard someone talk about it. You file the wrong motions in the wrong situations. It’s important to know what you don’t know and act accordingly. Instead of talking about sovereign citizenship, talk about and use civil procedure. Rather than reacting to lawyer antics, judicial bias or a sense of unfairness, focus on your case. Learn it backwards and forwards, and then bring your court reporter. That’s how you win. See Sovereign Citizens Make Pro Se Litigants Look Silly for more about the “problem” with sovereign citizens.
The Judiciary Act of 1789, one of those laws, states that "in all courts of the United States, the parties may plead and manage their own causes personally." It follows that federal judges must respect the pro se litigants' right to represent themselves. Thus, the Supreme Court and Congress have means to remedy the problems with federal judges who disrespect and ignore the rights of pro se litigants.
Pro se representation refers to a situation in which a person decides not to be represented by an attorney in a civil or criminal court case. The right of an individual to choose pro se representation dates back to pre-Constitutional times in the U.S. Although individuals have the right to represent themselves during legal actions, there are certain requirements. For example, the individual must have the mental capacity necessary to represent himself, which may be determined by the court, if questioned. Additionally, an individual choosing pro se representation must observe all of the rules of the legal action and the courtroom, just as an attorney would be expected to do.
I finally decided to invest in the program and start to learn "How to Win in Court"! Your program saved me. Learning the rules of court make a difference! The HOA dropped the case. Thank you for everything! I now can start my life over after 10 years of unfounded harassment from greedy people who don't care! The only regret is I did not order your program sooner. ... Becca C.

Judges of all political stripes and at every level of government support providing lawyers for people who cannot afford them. As the late Justice Antonin G. Scalia put it, “in today’s law-ridden society, denial of access to professional legal assistance is denial of equal justice.”15 Judges support legal aid because they want to make good on providing equal justice, or coming much closer to doing so, and because they want to improve the efficient administration of justice, as well as out of self-interest.

Pro se representation refers to a situation in which a person decides not to be represented by an attorney in a civil or criminal court case. The right of an individual to choose pro se representation dates back to pre-Constitutional times in the U.S. Although individuals have the right to represent themselves during legal actions, there are certain requirements. For example, the individual must have the mental capacity necessary to represent himself, which may be determined by the court, if questioned. Additionally, an individual choosing pro se representation must observe all of the rules of the legal action and the courtroom, just as an attorney would be expected to do.

The justice system cannot function without the confidence of the public.26 Lack of confidence will eventually lead to distrust of the system and the rule of law. Trust in the rule of law is an essential part of democracy. Although the public trusts the judiciary more than the other branches of government, confidence in the U.S. civil justice system is low.27 In an adversarial system, unrepresented litigants threaten public confidence: when individuals perceive or receive unequal treatment, they lose respect and confidence in the institution that is supposed to deal fairly with them.
Peggy Orenstein is the author of Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Love, Kids and Life in a Half-Changed World. An award-winning writer and speaker on issues affecting girls and women, she is a regular contributor to The New York Times Magazine, and her work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Vogue, Glamour, Mirabella, Details, Elle, Mother Jones, The New Yorker, and other publications. Additionally, she has served as an editor at Esquire, Manhattan inc., 7 Days, and Mother Jones magazines.
Canon 3A(4). The restriction on ex parte communications concerning a proceeding includes communications from lawyers, law teachers, and others who are not participants in the proceeding. A judge may consult with other judges or with court personnel whose function is to aid the judge in carrying out adjudicative responsibilities. A judge should make reasonable efforts to ensure that law clerks and other court personnel comply with this provision.

This Code applies to United States circuit judges, district judges, Court of International Trade judges, Court of Federal Claims judges, bankruptcy judges, and magistrate judges. Certain provisions of this Code apply to special masters and commissioners as indicated in the “Compliance” section. The Tax Court, Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, and Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces have adopted this Code.


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].
(B) Outside Influence. A judge should not allow family, social, political, financial, or other relationships to influence judicial conduct or judgment. A judge should neither lend the prestige of the judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others nor convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge. A judge should not testify voluntarily as a character witness.
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.
In the constant flurry of change characteristic of capitalism, trust in general certainties is possible even as fixed, particular certainties constantly dissolve. The structures that make this general trust possible also give rise to specific mistrust, since there isn’t anything to fall back upon in most instances other than the generalized laws of the market. This is why impersonal advertising tries to imitate personal connections, simulate homes and families, friendships and sex, to tie the generalized sense of products to a specific sensation. It’s this ambiguous spot that the confidence-man preys upon. There’s a kind of hypocrisy or bad faith that comes out when you’re skeptical of a particular stranger. If you have nice ideas about humanity, how can you justify brushing someone off? You should at least hear them out. And what they’re selling isn’t that expensive—how about two for the price of one—and it was nice to talk to someone, anyone, for a few minutes. The confidence-man is the person you shouldn’t trust who shows you how bad it is that you don’t trust people. The essence of the scam, the false promise of the con man, is this contradiction between trust and mistrust. And in fact, we experience participation in a capitalist society like this all the time, whether we’re blasting our banks for hidden fees or Facebook for changing its appearance. These companies couldn’t care less about us, and yet we place an unjustifiable amount of emotional investment in them, expect loyalty, and then get upset when they treat us as dumb sources of money.
Study 2 provides a first indication that self-affirmation increases feelings of self-compassion using an established storytelling task-based measure. This result was specific to self-compassion; self-affirmation did not affect other-directed feelings of compassion toward a peer video. Moreover, the effect of self-affirmation on feelings of self-compassion was moderated by trait self-compassion, such that self-affirmation boosted feelings of self-compassion toward the storytelling video in those who were low in trait self-compassion. These findings help clarify the Study 1 findings where it was unclear whether the compassionate feelings encouraging helping behavior were directed at the self or directed out toward others. Here we find evidence that self-affirmation fosters compassionate feelings for the self but not toward a peer, which is consistent with the self-compassion account. However, the use of a single confederate video may not have been optimally matched to real participants’ self videos, perhaps differing on unmeasured variables despite our best efforts to film this peer video under matched conditions (the female research assistant in the video had no chance to practice or provide multiple takes, and was similarly embarrassed during the task as the study participants).

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.
Aside from her family appellate matters, Christa has also been successful in small claims. In 2017 Christa brought a pro se complaint against an auto body repair shop after it made faulty repairs to her vehicle. The shop hired an aggressive attorney, but Christa successfully pushed the case to a settlement for the full amount of her claim. Although Christa cannot and will not offer legal advice, she genuinely engages with her clients, is always happy to lend a listening ear and to share her own pro se experiences. Christa encourages her customers to educate themselves of the system and the laws which she believes results in an empowered and confident pro se litigant.  
We often talk to parents about whether to file for child custody pro se, a legal term also known as 'self-representation.' In general, we recommend that parents proceed with caution when it comes to filing for child custody or child support pro se. The following questions and tips can help you determine the best course of action related to your case.

According to Boston Bar Association Task Force 1998 report in every court studied by the task force, litigants without lawyers are present in surprising numbers. In some counties, over 75% of the cases in Probate and Family Courts have at least one party unrepresented. In the Northeast Housing Court, over 50% of the landlords and 92% of the tenants appear without lawyers in summary process cases.[40]
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