Here’s yet another story of a judge disrespecting pro se litigants, this time by refusing to allow a criminal defendant to represent himself. This judge’s ignorance of the Sixth Amendment may put a dangerous criminal back on the street. We deserve better from our judiciary.
It’s not every day a government employee tells us how they really feel about the people they represent. A Jacksonville, Florida judge blessed the self-represented litigant community recently by proving we’re not crazy when we claim judicial bias. You guessed it: we’re broke, unbalanced, maybe sometimes both. But even when that’s true, we deserve judges who haven’t made up their minds about who we are.
Judicial bias against pro se litigants is so common that it pays to expect it and prepare for it. It’s made a federal appeals court judge mad enough to quit the bench. Good for him! Judge Richard Posner is an ally.
You went into the courtroom prepared to make your case, or at least make it to the next hearing. You came out wondering what happened in there. How has the case ended with a judgment against you? The short answer: The judge had decided to kill your case before you even opened your mouth. Forewarned is forearmed.
If you’ve ever been to court on your own, you’re likely all too familiar with judicial bias. When you find a judge who is sensitive enough to hear an argument without all the legalese, you know you’ve had a fair dealing, whether you win or lose. That’s the experience recounted in a beautiful eulogy for a recently passed federal judge. Rest in peace, Judge Joseph Irenas.
It’s been nearly 20 years since “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted” was released, just a few months before Tupac Shakur lost his life. The music video for the track has 2Pac and Snoop representing themselves in court with the gangsta attitude needed for effective pro se litigation. Like a gangsta, every successful pro se litigant must be prepared to break the rules, because the rules weren’t made for us.
Arizona used car salesman Van Flury is a vexatious litigant, no doubt. He has filed 50 lawsuits over the last decade, and now a judge says he needs permission to file another one. But vexatious litigation laws ought to be unconstitutional, since we have a right to petition government. And if that right isn’t ironclad, the Fourteenth Amendment (due process clause) means it ought to apply to everyone, not just to pro se litigants. My take is that blocking access to the courthouse door allows for judicial bias against pro se litigants to go unchecked.
It’s not hard to find advice on how to dress for court. It boils down to dressing conservatively to make sure your clothing doesn’t detract from your presentation. But little of that advice takes real advantage of judicial bias against pro se litigants. Of course, most courts have a dress code. The Slidell (Louisiana) city court is typical. You […]