Even in a court that has a steady stream of pro se litigants, judicial officers need to take the time to learn how to deal with these individuals. Judges need to know the pro se process and pro se rights to reduce the potential for antagonism between parties or frustration among self-represented litigants.
Pro Se Litigation In 2009, over 60 percent of all federal civil cases were filed by one or more pro se litigants. Studies have shown that approximately 75% of all state courts hear at least some litigation from unrepresented defendants each year. Much like any other type of litigant, judges should remember that while using one’s lawyer is not associated with any particular strengths or weaknesses, pro se litigants are often disadvantaged. Pro se litigation is generally slower than cases with lawyers on both sides because unrepresented parties frequently require more time to present their cases. They also tend to file poorly written complaints and easy for the other party to defend against.
Pro Se Litigation Process
There are many issues regarding how pro se litigants should be treated by the courts which have not been entirely resolved. In general, a court may decide whether a particular request made by a pro se litigant falls within the court’s inherent power or whether it must be authorized under established procedural rules.
Self-Pleaded Complaints vs. Outside Counsel
When dealing with legal matters, an attorney typically represents an individual. In some cases, though, one may choose to represent oneself in court, which is referred to as pro se representation. This scenario can play out in a variety of ways: the individual may file the lawsuit without an attorney (known as a self-pleaded complaint), may have an appointed lawyer for a limited amount of time or specific proceedings only, or may be allowed to continue representing oneself after the case has been filed.
In theory, allowing pro se litigants to continue representing themselves throughout the case should not pose too many problems. However, several dangers can arise. For instance, if the other side realizes that the pro se litigant is not fully informed about the law or court procedures, they may attempt to take advantage of this fact. Additionally, pro se litigants can quickly become bogged down in legal minutiae and complex procedural issues. Judges should be aware of these dangers and take steps to prevent them from happening.
When a pro se litigant is not allowed to continue representing themselves, they are typically referred to as an “in propria persona” litigant. In this situation, the litigant is still responsible for representing themselves but is aided by an attorney appointed by the court to help with specific aspects of the case. This lawyer is an “amicus curiae” or “friend of the.” There are several advantages to this type of arrangement. For instance, in most cases, an amicus curiae can provide the opposing side with additional legal arguments that they may not have considered before. On occasion, an amicus curiae can also be permitted to appear in court and make oral arguments on behalf of the pro se litigant.
Pro Se Litigation Rights
As a general rule, despite representing themselves in court or having a court-appointed attorney, pro se litigants’ rights are typically no different than any other litigant’s rights. However, there is one major exception: pro se litigants do not need to follow all procedural rules set forth by the courts because these rules were created for legal professionals.
This exception is often controversial because pro se litigants can abuse it. For example, a pro se litigant may choose to file a lawsuit even though they know they have a valid legal argument. This can cause significant delays in the court proceedings and increase the cost of litigation for all parties involved.
Despite this potential danger, courts must still afford pro se litigants because they are acting on their behalf. In most cases, this means that a pro se litigant is allowed to present their case in any way they see fit as long as it is done promptly. Additionally, pro se litigants are to cross-examine witnesses and submit evidence in the same manner as an attorney.
Treating Pro Se Litigants with Respect
To ensure a fair and just process for all parties involved, judges should always treat pro se litigants with respect. This includes being patient when explaining court procedures and ensuring that pro se litigants have ample opportunity to present their cases.
Additionally, judges should take steps to prevent pro se litigants from abusing their rights. This can be done by requiring pro se litigants to follow specific procedural rules and appointing an amicus curiae to help them throughout the proceedings. By following these simple tips, judges can ensure that all parties involved in a lawsuit are treated fairly and given a chance to have their voices heard.