READ THIS. THEY ARE NOT MY WORDS, but the words published by the Court before a swearing-in ceremony downtown at the Superior Court on October 20, 2004.
“The number of individuals appearing in California’s courts without legal representation is reaching critical mass and challenging the most fundamental promise of American government: Equal justice under the law. Most of these individuals represent themselves because they cannot afford an attorney to help on matters ranging from family law to housing issues, traffic matters to small claims.
A coalition of court, college, and community representatives has formed to better help self-represented litigants navigate the court system and resolve legal matters for the betterment of their lives, the lives of their families, and the community as a whole.
This year, 100 JusticeCorps members were recruited from four local universities to provide assistance in 10 Los Angeles-area Self-Help Legal Access Centers. Volunteers will work closely with legal aid attorneys, and will be trained to provide legal assistance through direct contact with self-represented litigants, legal workshops, and use of self-help computer terminals. In exchange for a 300-hour, one-year commitment, JusticeCorps members will receive a cash education award and an invaluable learning opportunity outside the classroom.
Funded through an AmeriCorps grant, JusticeCorps is a collaborative project of the California Administrative Office of the Courts; the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Small Claims Advisor; California State University at Northridge; California State University at Dominguez Hills; University of California at Los Angeles; California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles; Legal Aid Society of Orange County; and Neighborhood Legal Services.”

THESE ARE MY WORDS:
PROCEED WITH CAUTION! The previous self-serving statement is all very well, but until justice departments have trained their judges to
1. RESPECT self-representing litigants (aka pro pers/pro ses)
2. ALLOW THEM them just a little more room to make mistakes, remembering that they are on a learn-as-you-go track
3. HAVE JUDGES not be afraid of making SUA SPONTE decisions FROM THE BENCH when they are fully aware of what is going on. All too often, their attitude is, “well, if you don’t raise it, if you don’t plead it, if you don’t know the law, I’m not going to help you. You might want to hire a lawyer”.
The result of this imbalance is that these programs of self-help become cynical come-ons which serve to entrap the public.
Read my side-bars “The Plight of the Pro se” and “What’s a Pro se to do?”