The right of individuals to represent themselves in court is an integral part of the American judicial system says William D King. If a party decides, after consulting with their attorney, that they would prefer to not be represented by counsel in a lawsuit, they are free to exercise their constitutional right to do so. In the case of civil lawsuits involving personal injury or property damage, this is known as “pro se representation.”
In all states throughout the nation civil cases are heard in state courts and federal courts. There are significant procedural differences between how a plaintiff proceeds in a civil lawsuit depending on whether it is heard in a federal versus a state court. However, both types of cases follow essentially the same rules when it comes to pro se litigants.
These rules vary from state to state but there are several key concepts which hold true no matter where the case is brought:
- Even though such an individual is not represented by counsel, they are still held to the same standard as those represented by legal counsel. This means that a pro se litigant must comply with the Federal and State rules of civil procedure as well as any local court rules.
- Pro se litigants do not receive preferential treatment when it comes to scheduling or accessibility to the courtroom. They are entitle to no less but also no more respect than an individual who has retain legal representation for themselves.
- All pleadings (written statements) submit by pro se parties must be type in 12 point Courier font and meet all formatting requirements for such documents. Pages should be double-space and include 1″ margins on left side, right side, top, and bottom of each page; there should be no headers or footers on any pages. Parties must number all pleadings and include their name, address, telephone number(s). And case caption (name of court, names of parties) at the top of each page. After the first explains William D King.
- If a party fails to conform to these standards they will have an opportunity to re-submit their pleading. But may risk that they will not be hear by the opposition if it is determine. That said document was not prepare in accordance with rules forth by the court. When this happens, penalties may range from dismissal without prejudice (a possible delay in proceeding while parties prepare new submissions) or outright dismissal with prejudice (most extreme penalty where the parties are bar access to court for future presentation of same claim/issue).
- Prose litigants are also subject to the same guidelines. As those represented by attorneys when it comes to discovery (written requests for evidence) and pre-trial discovery (depositions).
Final Notes on Pro Se Litigants in Civil Trials:
Individuals who elect to represent themselves do. So knowing that they cannot be entitle to attorney’s fees should they win their case. It is not unheard of, however, for a court to appoint an attorney ad lite (representative/guardian) “to act on behalf of or otherwise protect” a pro se litigant says William D King. The rules vary from state to state but these legal professionals tend to be appoint more commonly. In matters involving minor children where parents wish to avoid the expense of legal representation.
There are also certain guidelines in place for individuals. Who wish to file a pro se appeal in federal or state court. For instance, when appealing one’s case it is mandatory that the appellant follows the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. These rules include how briefs should be format along with other procedural requirements. Which are not present when filing an initial claim in district court. Failure to follow these established rules may result in significant delays or even dismissal. If ignoring such guidelines could pose a risk to opposing parties.
Being a pro se litigant can be an extremely rewarding experience. As it allows for personal control of one’s case says William D King. And the opportunity to represent oneself before those who would otherwise be consider “the system”. However, such individuals should always remember that their cases will be hold to the same standard. As those brought by attorneys and that any deficiencies in preparedness may result in significant time delays or even dismissal.