Remember this phrase: Litigation Privilege. The phrase has a formal meaning, but in layman’s language it means that lawyers can do just about anything, especially to a self-represented litigant, to protect their clients. They can lie, steal, cheat–and kill if they could get away with it–to win. Lawyers don’t always need tricks to defeat pro se litigants, but they try them anyway. They can scare defendants into paying more than they owe or settling for far less than they deserve. They’ll use a request for admissions to make pro se litigants “admit” to undeserved liability by not answering. Some will even attempt to keep away your court reporter by lying to you or to your court reporting agency. So keep your eyes open when you’ve cornered a lawyer. Chances are, there’s a trick coming, and when it does, don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Stay focused on your case. Reacting in anger by moving for sanctions, writing letters to the judge, reporting lawyer behavior in a hearing, or moving to disqualify a lawyer makes thinking and strategizing difficult. That’s not to say certain issues shouldn’t be addressed. If you must take an issue head-on, like moving for sanctions, do it strategically so you’ll get the most out of it. Otherwise, only address lawyer antics and judicial bias when it hurts your case, not when it hurts your feelings.

In a California study of family matters, one party appeared pro se in 2/3 of all domestic relations cases and in 40% of all child custody cases in 1991-95. California reports in 2001 that over 50% of the filings in custody and visitation are by pro se litigants. Urban courts report that approximately 80% of the new divorce filings are filed pro se.[2]


If you are a judge interested in teaching a lesson to elementary, middle or high school students, please explore Judges in the Classroom. Proven interactive lesson plans are available for download from the website that focus on the law and legal process. You may also sign up as an interested judge to be contacted if teachers from your area request a judge.

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.

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.
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.

United States federal courts created the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system to obtain case and docket information from the United States district courts, United States courts of appeals, and United States bankruptcy courts.[68] The system, managed by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, allows lawyers and self-represented clients to obtain documents entered in the case much faster than regular mail.[68] However, the system charges fees, which were the subject of a class action lawsuit ongoing as of 2019.[69] Several federal courts published general guidelines for pro se litigants and Civil Rights complaint forms.[70][71][72][73]

Trial attorneys who are not mindful of the psychological and sociological elements at play when litigating against pro se parties risk exacerbating an already difficult situation by increasing the likelihood of protracted and unfocused litigation, appealable procedural missteps, and unmanaged expectations. Thus, at the outset of the lawsuit, an attorney facing a pro se opponent should make every effort to determine what is motivating the litigation (e.g., hurt feelings, anger, unmitigated expectations) and, if possible, the reason for the lack of representation. Throughout the pretrial process and during trial, a primary objective of counsel should be to strategically allow the pro se litigant to air his or her grievances in such a way as to limit the scope of triable issues while still being satisfied with his or her day in court.
The Center helps judges and courts advance access to civil justice, especially for poor and low-income individuals, by offering resources on 15 strategies and technical assistance. It works closely with the Conference of Chief Justices, the Conference of State Court Administrators and other national court organizations to implement access-to-justice solutions.

Don’t you think consistency requires that you should either say ‘I have confidence in all men,’ and take down your notification; or else say, ‘I suspect all men,’ and keep it up."...To say that strangers are not to be trusted, does not that imply something like saying that mankind is not to be trusted; for the mass of mankind, are they not necessarily strangers to each individual man?


Laws and organizations charged with regulating judicial conduct may also affect pro se litigants. For example, the Judicial Council of California officially advocates treating self-represented litigants fairly.[9] The California rules allow for accommodating mistakes by a pro se litigant that would otherwise result in a dismissal, if the case is otherwise merited.[10] In addition the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure rule 56 on summary judgments notes that pro se litigants may need additional advice with regard to necessity of responding a summary judgment motion.[11]
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