Putting the “Pro” in Pro Se, 1118 COBJ, Vol. 47, No. 10 Pg. 4

Author:By JOHN VAUGHT.
Position::Vol. 47, 10 [Page 4]
 
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47 Colo.Law. 4

Putting the "Pro" in Pro Se

Vol. 47, No. 10 [Page 4]

The Colorado Lawyer

November, 2018

CBA PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE

By JOHN VAUGHT.

In June 2018, the Federal Pro Se Legal Clinic, located in the U.S. District Courthouse, opened its doors to the public with the stated goal of “empower[ing] . . . litigants to represent themselves to the best of their abilities while recognizing their unique challenges in the legal system.” Te clinic is just one of many noteworthy projects of the Colorado Bar Association,1 yet this project merits special attention for its important role in bolstering access to justice in Colorado.

Early Development

Te Federal Pro Se Assistance Project is the brainchild of many, but principally of Magistrate Judge Kristen Mix.2 Judge Mix recognized that pro se litigants face a steep learning curve when it comes time to seek justice in the federal court system. Just a few of those challenges include:

■ preparing and filing complaints and responses,

■ stating claims in intelligible form,

■ responding to motions to dismiss for summary judgment,

■ motions practice,

■ knowledge about legal decisions that would help their cases,

■ knowing when to object to testimony or evidence,

■ understanding legal consequences of actions, and

■ fling timely pleadings or submissions.

Those challenges not only impede the ability of individual civil litigants to obtain justice, but also burden the judicial system with claims that may well have merit but are stated in such a way that even federal judges cannot comprehend the true nature of the claims.

That is where the pro se legal clinic fills a critical gap in access to justice. More than a mere informational clinic, it enables pro se litigants to actually meet with an attorney to review what is typically only a narrative in their complaint, and then help them restate that narrative in a way that more clearly states their claim.

Beyond discernable complaints, project attorney Sabra Janko and her staff assist litigants in understanding motions practice generally, and motions to dismiss in particular. Staff...

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