Pro se litigation refers to an individual representing themselves in a court proceeding. While it’s recommended one have a seasoned attorney speak on their behalf, there are cases when a plaintiff or defendant believes they can fight their case without legal help. And it’s not an uncommon practice. Pro se is common in cases involving foreclosure, bankruptcy, domestic and family matters, as well as landlord and tenant disputes.
Why Would You Go Pro Se?
There are jurisdictions where pro se is mandatory. This usually applies to small claim matters that concern monetary disputes, such as car accidents or property damage. Others may choose pro se to avoid paying an attorney. If criminality is involved, a plaintiff or defendant will appear before a judge to argue their competence. Should the judge grant the right to represent yourself, they most likely will insist you have a seasoned lawyer that advises the litigant throughout the proceedings.
Pro Se Disadvantages
Pro se is a right for all individuals. Unfortunately, like any privilege or right, it’s subject to misuse and abuse. This is why, outside relatively small matters, it is greatly advised one not represent themselves. Litigants who go this route will find themselves held to the legal standards of a licensed lawyer. Pro se litigants are subject to sanctions. Litigants will not be allowed to claim later they didn’t have effective counsel when things go wrong. Adjudicators and judges may be resistant to pro se litigants, especially if it becomes obvious the litigant’s lack of knowledge interferes with proceedings. It’s a slippery slope.
Representing Yourself With Proper Counsel
A mixture of pro se litigation and professional counsel ensures litigants take full advantage of their pro se rights and avoid the negative elements. Lawyers can appear with litigants in court or ensure they’re fully prepared without a lawyer appearance.