1. Pro'se Litigant: A person who represents himself in the court or other legal proceedings without attorney representation. These persons are also called "pro'ses," "pro'se litigants," and "pro'se plaintiffs." You may even be addressed with "Pro'se" as an adjunct to your name, for example, "Pro'se Peggy" (first name), or "Pro'se Smith" (last name).
4. Lawful Discretion vs. No Discretion: A. These are very important terms for understanding the legal process. A judge may lawfully use "discretion" in his decision-making when instructions from the law (statutes) or rules give him leeway to render the outcome in his judgment / order from a range or variety of options. Here's a simple example: If the statute for negligent behavior states that the judge may fine a defendant from a range of $5,000 to $25,000, then he uses his "lawful discretion" to "choose" the amount that he thinks fits the "gravity" of the offense. If he chooses, $10,000, than he used his lawful discretion to arrive at his decision.
B. Having no discretion. On the other hand, if the statute states that the judge can only fine a definite amount, say $20,000, then he cannot legally deviate from that amount, and must charge the $20,000. This means that he has "NO discretion" in this law (or legal instruction), and it would be unlawful for him to change the amount.
C. Another practical example of "having no discretion" is adjudging in accordance with the 14th Amendment. Here, the judge is required to apply the law equally for all parties in court in accordance with the rules and statutes (laws). He has "no discretion" to treat one party differently (or biasly) from another party. The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires that a judge treat all parties equally when applying due-process of the statutes / laws.
NOTE: Breach of the 14th Amendment is the most common violation of the U.S. Constitution by judges (and other government officials).
8. Intimidation from Court Officers: Intimidation is the primary technique that dishonest officers-of-the-court use to deny rights. Even for pro'se litigants that know their rights, their confidence can be shaken from overbearing judges and lawyers who bark-out demands that may even be unlawful. The conditions for intimidation exists whenever the judge and / or opposing party does not respect you or your rights.
9. Administrative Activism: Administrative activism involves two general processes. First, it is the initiation of action(s) that require an accountable response from the agency (or corporation). Second, the action, response(s), and findings are reported (publicized) to the public. As well, a third, supplementary process is to report the actions of which other citizens and groups have taken in their areas of focus.
Administrative activism accumulates a body of work from administrative taskings (lawsuits, policy and legislative proposals, letter-writing, complaints, etc.) as a case to convince the public that changes are necessary in government. The structure serves as a cental, informational clearinghouse for citizens to act-on.
10. Due-process [of law]: Due-process of law is the court carrying out the rules and statutes that apply to the respective civil and criminal cases. In accordance with the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, all judges are mandated to apply due process equally for all parties when adjudicating cases.
2. Complexity: "Complex[ity]" is used interchangably with "complicated." These terms should not be used in the context that something is "too difficult to understand." Instead, there are multiple basic facets involved in a set of circumstances that have not been fully exposed to the "observer." FOR EXAMPLE, the "pro'se problem" is a complex matter, because it involves various "defined social challenges" within our society. But when each (or most) of the challenges are identified for the observer, she / he then has a better understanding of the pro'se problem. The complex issue is understandable by most people when its facets / components are fully exposed to the observer.
5. To Adjudicate, Prosecute vs. the Pro'se A.The root word of adjudicate is "judge." Respectively, adjudicate, a verb, means for the judge to carry a case through the due-process of law (court rules and statutes), and then he makes a judgment on the case. We then say that the case has been adjudicated.
B. Adjudicate for judges is the same as prosecute is for the attorneys that represent plaintiffs and defendants. Attorneys prosecute the due-process of the court's proceedings. This means that they must follow the rules of the court, in accordiance with the laws that apply to their cases, until they have finished presenting their cases to the judge. We then say that the attorney has prosecuted the case.
C. However, if the plaintiff or defendant speaks for himself without an attorney, then he is a "pro'se litigant," or a "pro'se" that "prosecutes" his own case. We then say that it's a pro'se case, or this pro'se prosecuted his own case.
Please observe that pro'se is the root word of [prose]cute.
7. Declaring Your Rights & Pro'se Confidence: A dirty little secret in the legal profession is that in court, "you make your own reality." This means that whatever action you initiate, the other party and the judge must respond to it as part of the prosecutorial and adjudicative process. If you don't apply your issues in court, then it is likely that nothing will happen in your favor.
That is why "declaring your rights" and "pro'se confidence" goes hand-in hand. When you declare your rights to the judge, he must respond to that declaration. And when you declare with confidence, it makes it more difficult for the judge to just rollover you. If you are on solid legal grounds (in which pro'ses usually are), then he must violate your due-process rights in order to rule against you. If this happens, though he may unlawfully dismiss the case, you 1) have established another "issue-of-law" for which to bring up on appeal, 2) may file a complaint of misconduct against him, 3) file suit against him, and 4) may even file criminal charges against him (for civil rights violations). It's a typical scenario in the courts where the judge believes that you are operating alone, with no support.
Your having confidence in articulating your points in court will minimize the tendency of wrongdongs from the opposing party and judge. Your confidence discourages them from intimidating you.
12. Governmental Official vs. Government: These two terms are oftentimes used interchangeably. However, I have grown to realize a significant and distinct difference between how the two should be viewed, that is important for how we mature as citizens. For, we, "The People," are Government.
To wit, when you are injured by a governmental official, you have, indeed, been injured by Government, since officials make-up the body of Government. Yet, obviously, all the officials in Government have not harmed you. So, to be more precise, you were harmed by an official, though he is employed by a "governmental agency." And as you may well know, when you file a lawsuit for the injury in the official capacity, it is always filed against Government, itself (i.e., restitution is paid by governmental treasury). Yet, again, technically and realistically you were harmed by the official.
Hence, for the purpose of "seeking" positive perceptions of Government, I believe that it is important to identify the technical aspects of our injuries as being done by "governmental officials." We should want to view the potential of Government as a helper and protector of people, and not as an "entity" that we're always battling against. With such disposition, we and Government can then move toward melding healthily to facilitate each other.
When we identify our injuries as done by officials, then Government, itself, is tended to be viewed as "the facilitator" that has a "bad apple," a bad official. Do you get it? And thus, we'll be more positive about Government; and that potential of Government may then becomes intrinsic in our lives.
Thus, "I was harmed by those governmental officials, but I believe that the government will straighten it out." Get it?
3. Officers of the Court: These are the official administrators (clerks, judges, governmental prosecutors) that operate the court on behalf of the public, and for the attending parties: plaintiffs, defendants, etc. Officers of the court also include licensed attorneys that represent these parties.
Therefore, representing attorneys are under official jurisdiction of the court. This means that a judge may "confiscate" the services of an attorney to conduct official business for a party, for the purpose getting the case adjudicated. For example, if a plaintiff cannot adequately state his issues before the court, the judge may appoint any of these attorneys to represent that plaintiff. However, the attorney must be certified to practice law within the judge's territorial state of jurisdiction.
6. To Prevail in Law vs. Winning: At the PPLA the terms "winning" or "loosing" a case are not used. This is because a case, when due-process is legitimately applied by all officers of the court, is already pre-disposed for the outcome. Then, there is nothing the plaintiff, defendant, or judge can do to change the outcome. Parties can only present their findings and explain the law. The judge then applies the law accordingly. Therefore, before the case has even begun it is already pre-disposed for the outcome in accordance with instructions of the law.
Hence, the concepts of winning or loosing are misnomers for courts of law, and only apply when judges and / or a party attempts to circumvent the rules / law to manipulate case outcome. They give rise to adversarialism, egotism, and illusions that an attorney is skilled. Winning and loosing only applies when the attorney lies and cheats to "win" a case. He is not skilled if he must dishonor himself. And certainly, he has not "won" a case if the judge cheats to "give" it to him.
Thus, even before a case is filed, it is already pre-determined "in law" as to how it applies to the parties. A party "prevails" by predisposition when the law is properly applied.
11. Appointment of Counsel; A Necessary Public Policy:
Appointment of counsel is when the judge assigns attorney respresentation to the plaintiff who cannot speak adequately for herself / himself. This is a necessary public policy for preventing guilty defendants from escaping offenses without punishment.
When not properly practiced by the courts, the policy greatly contributes to the pro'se problem. Compromise occurs not only in cases where attorney representation is flatout denied to the plaintiff, but also when an attorney is assigned but who does not fully represent the plaintiff's interests. FOR EXAMPLE, frequently, when the plaintiff is suing a powerful defendant, the assigned attorney will intentionally loose the case, as a collaboration with the defendant and / or judge.
Assignment-of-counsel is not addressed in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures (court rules). However, it is well established public policy; a matter of protecting the public and quite needed if court-justice is to be uniformly administered. If the pro'se plaintiff has filed suit (with a claim in which relief can be granted) but cannot adequately explain the issues, then he cannot prevail in law, without attorney assistance. Then, the case would have to be dismissed, and the guilty defendant eludes adjudication and punishment. Thus, the requirement that the courts provide attorney representation to indigent pro'se litigants in civil cases is an essential requirement for upholding the law. It serves to discourage negligent conduct from powerful perpetrators such as government agencies and corporations.
Here again, though the PPLA is working to compel judges to be more accountable to the system, public awareness of this necessary policy (and its costly consequences) is needed to ensure its equal application.