Working with Pro Se Parties
Wednesday, January 19, 2022
Noon- 12:50 p.m.
Maybe it’s the proliferation of courtroom shows on TV, where pro se litigants are allowed to duke it out (sometimes literally) for the judge’s attention. Maybe it’s the Internet and the rising number of courthouse self-help centers where there’s abundant information for folks who believe they can save a bundle by handling legal matters themselves.
Maybe it’s unfair to call the rise in the number of pro se litigants a “problem.” After all, people in this country have a constitutionally guaranteed right to self-represent. The more people learn about the law, their rights, and the system of justice, the better—right?
Maybe. Unfortunately, from a lawyer’s perspective, opposing a pro se litigant often means additional headaches. Lawyers complain that pro se litigants don’t know or follow court rules, don’t understand or obey the law, and, worse, that judges give them unfair leeway. Undoubtedly our perception of the problems posed by pro se litigants is colored by traditional legal training, resistance to change, and economic self-interest. Those biases aside, however, lawyers may legitimately find that dealing with a pro se litigant poses special ethical challenges.
This rise of self represent litigants has changed the ways that judges, clerks and court staff must manage their courts.
This CLE hour will discuss best practices in handling a case with pro se individual on the other side and the ethics of doing so, specifically Kansas Model Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.2, 2.3, 3.4, 3.5, 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, and 4.4.
Presenter Bethany Roberts
Bethany Roberts is the Managing Member with Barber Emerson, L.C. in Lawrence, Kansas, where she acts as a guardian ad litem, conciliator, case manager, and mediator in high-conflict domestic cases. Previously, Ms. Roberts served as the Pro Tem juvenile judge in Douglas County, where she handled a high-volume caseload of juvenile offender and child in need of care cases. Ms. Roberts is proud of her many years at Kansas Legal Services in Topeka, Kansas, where she served as the Managing Attorney and specialized in representing survivors of all ages who had experienced domestic, sexual, stalking, and dating violence. She still partners with Kansas Legal Services on pro bono and reduced-rate guardianship, protection order and domestic matters. Ms. Roberts is also an adjunct professor at both Washburn University School of Law and the University of Kansas School of Law. At Washburn, she teaches topics related to child and family law, including Children in the Law and Domestic Violence. In 2017, law students honored her with Washburn's Adjunct Faculty of the Year award. Ms. Roberts frequently speaks to law students, attorneys, and judges on domestic law, guardian ad litem practices, trial skills, and ethical issues. A graduate of the University of Kansas School of Law, Ms. Roberts previously worked as an elementary-school special-education teacher.