The Sixth Amendment guarantees criminal defendants the right to representation by counsel.  In 1975, the Supreme Court held that the structure of the Sixth Amendment necessarily implies that a defendant in a state criminal trial has a constitutional right to proceed without counsel when he voluntarily and intelligently elects to do so. See Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975).  Thus, an unwilling defendant may not be compelled by the State to accept the assistance of a lawyer.  A defendant's right to self-represenatation in federal criminal proceedings is codified in 28 U.S.C. § 1654. 
Self-Representation.—The Court has held that the Sixth Amendment, in addition to guaranteeing the right to retained or appointed counsel, also guarantees a defendant the right to represent himself. this a right the defendant must adopt knowingly and intelligently; under some circumstances the trial judge may deny the authority to exercise it, as when the defendant simply lacks the competence to make a knowing or intelligent waiver of counsel or when his self-representation is so disruptive of orderly procedures that the judge may curtail it. the essential elements of self-representation were spelled out in McKaskle v. Wiggins…
He said his interest in the law started 30 years ago when he was a teacher at Michigan City Area Schools and was in a battle with the district over a grievance. He felt one of the school's attorneys hadn't treated him fairly, telling him first he should go to arbitration and then claiming arbitration was illegal after they ruled in his favor, Vukadinovich said. Since then, he slowly started learning about the law, first reading a dictionary of legal terms and then moving on to books about the law.
Other voices in the citizenry must join with the judiciary to ensure that adequate funding is available to provide lawyers to the indigent and to develop mechanisms to make lawyers affordable to moderate income individuals. Lack of action will devastate the justice system. That will leave the rule of law in ruins, shattering the foundation of American democracy. Any other course will diminish the respect and moral standing the United States has enjoyed as a leader of democratic governments.
Also, I don’t know what this obligation is to give access to justice that is apparently on the shoulders of individual lawyers. I only know of the 6th Amendment right to an attorney for defendants in a criminal trial, in which case any lawyer could be appointed to represent a defendant; I know of no other obligation to make legal services available to everyone on demand. But you can’t seriously tell me that you don’t pit pro se litigants against lawyers and publish the articles you do. I know some lawyers who are pretty burnt out dealing with pro se nonsense, and I know some who are more generous to those who play lawyer for themselves, but when your opposing counsel is a pro se litigant who can’t distinguish you from your client, or doesn’t understand why you’re representing your client vigorously and then goes on the defense, you wish you could just tell them what is obvious to you: it’s not about them. For example, I might be hesitant to encourage Tanya here to represent herself since she doesn’t seem to understand the difference between pro bono and contingency and statutes and case law, and that she hasn’t actually found any case law yet before deciding to pursue her lawsuit on her own and presenting what may be a matter of first impression, but that’s not my business…
Find out what your jurisdiction does. If they don’t have them, it’s worth it to bring your own. If a hearing means anything to you, the money you shell out for a court reporter will pay back in spades. If it’s difficult to pay for a court reporter, try to stretch those hearings out as long as you can. If you’re in a multi-year case, you might have a hearing only 3 times per year anyway. If you find you’re having more and can’t afford it, prioritize them. This also helps you think strategically about your case.
You should not ignore a debt collection lawsuit because you cannot find a lawyer.  Hundreds of low income New Yorkers defend themselves in debt collection cases every single day, and many do so successfully.  Luckily, a debt collection case is relatively simple and straightforward as compared to other kinds of legal problems.  Debt collection attorneys often rely on the fact that unrepresented defendants do not know their rights.  Fight back by educating yourself about your case!   Read the information in these pages to familiarize yourself with the court process and the issues you will face as a pro se defendant (“pro se” means “without a lawyer”).  If possible, consult with the NYC Financial Justice Hotline or another attorney to obtain individualized advice about potential defenses you may have.  In our experience, a little information goes an incredibly long way.
(4) A judge should comply with the restrictions on acceptance of gifts and the prohibition on solicitation of gifts set forth in the Judicial Conference Gift Regulations. A judge should endeavor to prevent any member of the judge’s family residing in the household from soliciting or accepting a gift except to the extent that a judge would be permitted to do so by the Judicial Conference Gift Regulations. A “member of the judge’s family” means any relative of a judge by blood, adoption, or marriage, or any person treated by a judge as a member of the judge’s family.

Make sure you follow those instructions! At that point, you will be given so many days to serve the defendant with the court summons. In some districts, the plaintiff has the choice of either delivering the summons himself, a friend deliver it, or having a federal Marshal deliver it. It is most effective to have either a federal Marshal deliver the summons, or a really big guy in a suit. Whoever delivers the summons must make a note of who the summons is delivered to, what the date is, and what time it was delivered. Record this information on the appropriate form that is sent to you with the summons, and take it back to the district 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.

With 90 percent of Americans facing potential lawsuits at least once in their lives, being prepared can mean the difference between winning and losing. Pick up a copy of “How to Represent Yourself in Court—Winning Big without a Lawyer” and let Gary Zeidwig show you how to best prepare yourself in the event you find yourself in court fighting for your rights. Don’t wait until a lawsuit presents itself. By then, it might be too late.
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.

Make sure you follow those instructions! At that point, you will be given so many days to serve the defendant with the court summons. In some districts, the plaintiff has the choice of either delivering the summons himself, a friend deliver it, or having a federal Marshal deliver it. It is most effective to have either a federal Marshal deliver the summons, or a really big guy in a suit. Whoever delivers the summons must make a note of who the summons is delivered to, what the date is, and what time it was delivered. Record this information on the appropriate form that is sent to you with the summons, and take it back to the district court.
Check to see if you qualify for a fee waiver that would allow you to proceed without paying any (or some) court fees. Every jurisdiction is different, but this usually involves filing an application or motion to waive fees, which a judge then reviews and makes a ruling. You will likely need to produce evidence showing that you cannot afford to pay court fees (e.g., affidavit, declaration, bills, bank statements, etc.). 
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In one study, researchers identified almost 200 discrete tasks that self-represented litigants must perform in civil cases – from finding the right court to interpreting the law, filing motions, compiling evidence and negotiating a settlement. Some of these tasks require specialized knowledge of the law and of the court system. Almost all require time away from work and caring for children. Many also require the ability to get to the courthouse, to read and to speak English or access a translator.

Washington Limited Practice Rule. With a goal of making legal help more accessible to the public, the Washington Supreme Court has adopted APR 28, entitled “Limited Practice Rule for Limited License Technicians”. The rule will allow non-lawyers with certain levels of training to provide technical help on simple legal matters effective September 1, 2012.
When we get looped into living the same reel of life over and over again, it's hard to feel like we're accomplishing anything. Accomplishments--or at least the image of self-growth--are an easy way to boost our self-confidence. Combat this issue by challenging yourself with foreign circumstances. How you handle them--and how you excel--just might surprise you.
This can be a humbling and learning experience.  Sometimes, despite our convictions or our research, there will be times we will miss or misinterpret the point and be wrong.  Thinking law and litigation is a mixture of morality, common sense and fairness is a common source of this experience.  Morality, common sense and fairness may be elements in the drafting of laws, but the implementation of law may not favor morality, common sense or fairness as these terms are generally defined.

Although Canon 2C relates only to membership in organizations that invidiously discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion or national origin, a judge’s membership in an organization that engages in any invidiously discriminatory membership practices prohibited by applicable law violates Canons 2 and 2A and gives the appearance of impropriety. In addition, it would be a violation of Canons 2 and 2A for a judge to arrange a meeting at a club that the judge knows practices invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, or national origin in its membership or other policies, or for the judge to use such a club regularly. Moreover, public manifestation by a judge of the judge’s knowing approval of invidious discrimination on any basis gives the appearance of impropriety under Canon 2 and diminishes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, in violation of Canon 2A.


Let’s say you go to court and a court reporter is not present. You argue very strong points against an attorney with weak ones. Despite both the law and facts on your side, you lose. Think an appellate court will understand what went wrong and overturn the ruling? Probably not. Appellate courts will find many excuses not to overturn a lower court ruling. Without a court reporter’s transcript, an appellate court will say that the lower court was in the best position to evaluate the arguments made. Then, they’ll let the lower court decision stand. A court reporter, on the other hand, creates an official record of proceedings that can be sent to the appellate court. In the lower court, the simple presence of a court reporter greatly curtails judicial bias and bad behavior from lawyers. With that, you have a better chance of getting a fair hearing. To learn more about the effect of court reporters on judges and lawyers see, A Court Reporter Stops All Foolishness.
8. Don't forget to fill out the Pro Se Motion to Commence an Action Without Payment. Each court has a different standard of who can afford to pay, and who can't. People on SSI typically do not have to pay any fees. People who work may be asked to pay as much as $150. It's important to keep this in mind when your group is deciding who will be the plaintiff. The plaintiff should outline exactly why he thinks he should not have to pay fees. Look at the enclosed copy for an example of a person's form who did not have to pay fees.
While the Due Process Clause does not require the provision of counsel in a civil contempt case for failure to pay child support when the opposing parent is not represented by counsel, the court should provide "alternative procedural safeguards," such as "adequate notice of the importance of ability to pay, fair opportunity to present, and to dispute, relevant information, and court findings."
University of Illinois Law School's Professor Robert Lawless, a national expert in personal credit and bankruptcy, showed that, the rate of non-attorney filings in bankruptcy courts by debtors was 13.8% for chapter 13 cases, and 10.1% for chapter 7 cases. The rate was as high as 30% to 45% for major urban areas, such as California and New York city. US Bankruptcy Court of Arizona reported 23.14% cases filed pro se in October 2011, up from 20.61% a year before.[41]
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