Pro Se Presents: January 2012

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A court enjoined a former attorney from suing the new lover of her former attorney. In , the Federal Judicial Conference surveyed federal court clerks offices regarding pro se issues.

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They found that only 17 of 62 responding judges report that discovery is taken in most non prisoner pro se cases and only 13 reported that discovery is taken in most prisoner pro se cases. Pro se litigants may have a lower chance of success. The Louisiana Court of Appeals tracks the results of pro se appeals against represented appeals. Hashimoto, an assistant professor at the Georgia School of Law,:. After conducting an empirical study of pro se felony defendants, I conclude that these defendants are not necessarily either ill-served by the decision to represent themselves or mentally ill.

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In state court, pro se defendants charged with felonies fared as well as, and arguably significantly better than, their represented counterparts Only 26 percent of the pro se defendants ended up with felony convictions, while 63 percent of their represented counterparts were convicted of felonies Since an independent evaluation of the cases is difficult, this study can by design not distinguish whether defendants without representation face a greater challenge or whether defendants are more likely to choose representation when in doubt of the merit of their case.

Some pro se litigants who are federal prisoners are subject to the Prison Litigation Reform Act. The American Civil Liberties Union ACLU has asserted: ""For over thirteen years, the Prison Litigation Reform Act has denied access to the courts to countless prisoners who have become victims of abuse, creating a system of injustice that denies redress for prisoners alleging serious abuses, barriers that don't apply to anyone else.

It is time for Congress to pass legislation to restore the courts as a needed check on prisoner abuse.

The Connecticut Supreme Court narrowed criminal defendant's right to self representation, stating that "we are free to adopt for mentally ill or mentally incapacitated defendants who wish to represent themselves at trial a competency standard that differs from the standard for determining whether such a defendant is competent to stand trial". A Senior Assistant State's Attorney explained that the new standard essentially allows judges to consider whether the defendants are competent enough to perform the skills needed to defend themselves, including composing questions for voir dire and witnesses.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office permits inventors to file and prosecute patent applications pro se and provides resources for them to do so. Defendants who choose to appear pro se may do so because they believe they may gain tactical advantages against the prosecutor, such as obtaining sympathy from the jury, the opportunity to personally address the jury and witnesses. Pro se appearances may also delay the trial proceedings and enhance the possibility of a mistrial and a subsequent appeal. Once convicted, a prisoner no longer has the right to a public defender.

Motions for post conviction relief are considered civil motions. Brandon Moon is an example of an unsuccessful pro se litigant who became successful when his case was taken by a lawyer. Moon's case was taken by the Innocence Project , and he was released after 17 years in jail for a rape that he did not commit. An attorney who represents himself or herself in a matter is still considered a pro se litigant.

Self-representation by attorneys has frequently been the subject of criticism, disapproval, or satire, with the most famous pronouncement on the issue being British poet Samuel Johnson 's [ citation needed ] aphorism that "the attorney who represents himself in court has a fool for a client. The Supreme Court has held that where a statute permits attorney's fees to be awarded to the prevailing party, the attorney who prevails in a case brought under a federal statute as a pro se litigant is not entitled to an award of attorney's fees.

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As the court noted, the various circuits had previously agreed in various rulings "that a pro se litigant who is not a lawyer is not entitled to attorney's fees". Narrow exceptions to this principle have also been suggested by other courts in the United States. For example, according to one district court a state-licensed attorney who is acting as pro se may collect attorney's fees when he represents a class of which he is a member in a class action lawsuit, [53] or according to another court represents a law firm of which he is a member.

One district court found that this policy does not prevent a pro se attorney from recovering fees paid for consultations with outside counsel.


Federal courts can impose liability for the prevailing party's attorney fees to the losing party if the judge considers the case frivolous or for purpose of harassment, even when the case was voluntarily dismissed. Vice , U. Supreme Court held that reasonable attorneys' fees could be awarded to the defendant under 42 U.

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According to Utah Judicial Council report of , 80 percent of self-represented people coming to the district court clerk's office seek additional help before coming to the courthouse. About 60 percent used the court's Web site, 19 percent sought help from a friend or relative, 11 percent from the court clerk, and 7 percent went to the library.

In the justice courts, 59 percent sought no help. Many pro se resources come from these sources: local courts, which may offer limited self-help assistance; [62] public interest groups , such as the American Bar Association , which sponsors reform and promotes resources for self-help [ citation needed ] , and commercial services, which sell pre-made forms allowing self-represented parties to have formally correct documents.

The organization provides no assistance with particular complaints. Their A2J Author Project is a software tool that empowers those from the courts, legal services programs and educational institutions to create guided interviews resulting in document assembly, electronic filing and data collection. Viewers using A2J to go through a guided interview are led down a virtual pathway to the courthouse.

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As they answer simple questions about their legal issue, the technology then "translates" the answers to create, or assemble, the documents that are needed for filing with the court. States have organizations dedicated to delivering services to pro se litigants. For instance, the Minnesota Bar Association has a "pro se implementation committee". There are also freely accessible web search engines to assist pro se in finding court decisions that can be cited as an example or analogy to resolve similar questions of law.

Many federal courts publish procedural guides for pro se litigants. There are also guides for judges as to how to be fair and responsible when one or more party is pro se. Technology-oriented organizations which aim to provide access and information about the law include the Free Law Project and Justia. In , federal circuit court judge Richard Posner retired and founded a pro-bono group for helping pro se litigants, [84] named the Posner Center of Justice for Pro Se's. Along with David Boies , he filed an certiorari appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States requesting an explanation for a denial order, but the appeal was denied.

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