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Pro Se Leinancy?


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Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 520 (1971)

Plaintiff-inmate filed pro se complaint against prison seeking compensation for damages sustained while placed in solitary confinement. In finding plaintiff's complaint legally sufficient, Supreme Court found that pro se pleadings should be held to "less stringent standards" than those drafted by attorneys.

Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1959); Picking v. Pennsylvania R. Co., 151 Fed 2nd 240; Pucket v. Cox, 456 2nd 233

Pro se pleadings are to be considered without regard to technicality; pro se litigants' pleadings are not to be held to the same high standards of perfection as lawyers.

Maty v. Grasselli Chemical Co., 303 U.S. 197 (1938)

"Pleadings are intended to serve as a means of arriving at fair and just settlements of controversies between litigants. They should not raise barriers which prevent the achievement of that end. Proper pleading is important, but its importance consists in its effectiveness as a means to accomplish the end of a just judgment."

Puckett v. Cox, 456 F. 2d 233 (1972) (6th Cir. USCA)

It was held that a pro se complaint requires a less stringent reading than one drafted by a lawyer per Justice Black in Conley v. Gibson (see case listed above, Pro Se Rights Section).

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I suggest you read the bar association rules of conduct. They are available online. You are equally bound by those rules, just like any attorney. All the rules say is that opposing counsel should give you a little slack, not the court. When you represent yourself, you are held to the same standards as the attorneys you profess to be able to defeat. There is a bit of leniency towards pro ses, but very little. It varies according to the judge. As Kent said, you better know your stuff when you walk through those doors. You'll never find case law that says your defeat will be excused because you didn't know what you were doing. Criminal matters are different, no relation to a credit card case. Your freedom is not at issue. Judges tire easily of lawyer wannabes who think they can stroll into a court and make all sorts of legally unsupportable arguments, then later suggest a reversal of judgment because of incompetence. It's like the old joke where the guy who lost his pro se case appealed based upon poor legal representation.

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The judge made a point of telling all the pro per/se people in his court that they would be given no leeway. That it was their responsibility to know the rules of court and to know all the right forms and deadlines etc etc. He said he would give no help to them and that they were expected to know and do what any attorney was supposed to do in court. I am sure all judges are not so strict but I wouldn't expect much leeway just because you are pro se.

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Yes, you are required to know the correct paperwork and what to know for the pleadings. I always tried to find copies on line of various pleadings and motions to see how they were done. And yes, I think you are expected to know the correct forms. I would think as long as they are done in the correct manner you won't need legalese talk if you are making the correct points. But I would ask here for people to review your motions etc and get advice if they are written correctly. You can usually find the type of forms and the way they should be filled out at your court site.

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I suspect it depends on the judge and the district. I've watched judges try to bend over backwards to make sure justice was done with some pro se defendants. I'm pretty sure they know that the people aren't there representing themselves because they want to be. On the other hand, I could see a pro se plaintiff being held to a much higher standard than the defendants, especially when the law allows for attorneys fees and one could presumably find an attorney without a penny out of pocket. If you're the plaintiff, you chose to be there.

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