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In the Unites States, litigants and criminal defendants generally have the right to represent themselves “in propria persona” (often abbreviated “pro per,” or referred to by a similar Latin expression, “pro se“).
The right in United States law is deeply entrenched with notions of broad access to justice through the court system. The right is limited in some respects, especially in appellate cases, but is otherwise quite broad. It is also supplemented by a right to appointed counsel (paid for by the state) in certain cases, under the Sixth Amendment. (In other situations, like small claims court, one is required to represent oneself.)
While apparently much cheaper, representing oneself – especially without legal training – can be very difficult, both for litigants and defendants and for the court system. It may also prove to a costly choice in the long run. So before you proceed on your own, consider consulting a lawyer first.
Here are a few places to learn more:
- 10 Hints for Representing Yourself in Court
- NOLO press: excellent resources and books for those representing themselves.
- Pro se handbook: a guide for representing yourself.
- Representing Yourself in Court (pro se) – Pros and Cons