As DIY Litigants Crowd The Docket, Courts Step In To Help

While they remain rare for now, clinics like the one in the Eastern District of New York appear to be catching on in federal court as a way to aid self-represented litigants, for whom putting together a legally coherent complaint can be an insurmountable barrier.

Feature (New York)

Cara Salvatore
January 6, 2019

Tags: Courts, Pro Se/Self-Help

Organizations mentioned/involved: City Bar Justice Center (CBJC) (NY), New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG)


Programs helping pro se filers have historically been more common in state courts, but there’s no shortage of such litigants at the federal level, who often go it alone because they can’t afford legal counsel or their cases aren’t worth taking on from an economic standpoint. In federal court, pro se cases are about 25,300 of the 210,100 nonprisoner civil cases open nationwide, according to the most recent data from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

At least eight federal courts offer full-time or nearly full-time clinics to help pro se litigants, mainly starting within the past few years. For example, EDNY’s clinic was founded in 2014, and a similar program run by the New York Legal Assistance Group in the Southern District of New York is about two years old.