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Meeting the Challenge of Pro Se Litigation: A Report and Guidebook for Judges and Court Managers

NCJ Number
Jona Goldschmidt; Barry Mahoney; Harvey Solomon; Joan Green
Date Published
158 pages
This study of the recent growth of pro se litigation is intended to assist judges and court managers in developing effective assistance programs and strategies for handling self-represented litigants.
In addition to presenting the latest available data on the extent of pro se litigation, case law, and other literature on the subject, this guidebook includes the results of two nonscientific surveys of judges and court managers regarding existing programs and services for self-represented litigants. The survey inquired about judicial attitudes toward self-represented litigants, as well as courtwide and individual judges' policies and strategies for handling them in the courtroom. The first section provides information on areas of law in which the growth in pro se litigation has been observed, and cites news accounts from across the country that call attention to this phenomenon. Another section summarizes the legal and ethical issues that daily confront judges and court staff who deal with self-represented litigations. This section reviews the constitutional bases of self-representation, the decisional law concerning pro se litigation, as well as relevant cases, ethics opinions, and attorneys general opinions concerning judicial and court staff assistance to self-represented litigants. The daily challenges of pro se litigation are described in another section, with attention to administrative and judicial challenges. A section on resources for management of self-represented litigants presents examples of pro se assistance programs adopted by courts across the country, followed by policy recommendations developed by the advisory committee for this project. It is anticipated that these recommendations will be used as a starting point for a national dialog and local policy development to ensure access to the courts for all litigants, whether or not they are represented by attorneys. Appended additional resources, including a 38-item annotated bibliography