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Pro Se and Forma Pauperis Litigation (From Prisoners' Rights Sourcebook, P 177-195, 1980, Ira P Robbins, ed. - See NCJ-78483)

NCJ Number
I P Robbins; S N Herman
Date Published
This chapter from a sourcebook on prisoner's rights focuses on procedural obstacles to pro se litigation; appropriate remedies are suggested.
Most litigants who proceed without counsel do so because there is no feasible alternative. Many can neither afford counsel nor convince the court, in its discretion, to appoint counsel. Because of poverty, the pro se litigant suffers procedural setbacks and cannot afford to file the documents necessary for case processing. The right to submit papers to the courts is an empty one if the courts have no concomitant obligation to enable prisoners to prosecute their suits. Procurement of forma pauperis status is not an adequate remedy because of the notable difference in the treatment of papers filed by such litigants. Problems of equal protection, due process, and efficient judicial administration often arise under the forma pauperis statute. In addition, indigent civil litigants have no sixth amendment right to court appointed counsel, even in habeas corpus and other quasi-criminal proceedings. Therefore, the Committee on the Federal Courts recommends that assigning counsel, at least in nonfrivolous prisoners' civil rights cases, may not be a matter of discretion, but of constitutional imperative. The same reasoning might well be extended to other, perhaps all, pro se cases. The chapter proves 85 reference notes.