PRO SE STANDARD OF REVIEW
Judges and court must give
Pro Ses wide latitude and can not dismiss an action if there is any valid cause
that they can see, even if you are not pointing out the right law and presenting
The following is from our Reply Brief to the
Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Feel free to use it and pass it along to
Thomas M. Dutkiewicz, President
PRO SE STANDARD OF REVIEW
Because the Plaintiff is pro se, the Court has a higher standard when faced with
a motion to dismiss, White v. Bloom, 621 F.2d 276 makes this point clear and
states: A court faced with a motion to dismiss a pro se complaint must read the
complaint's allegations expansively, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21, 92
S. Ct. 594, 596, 30 L. Ed. 2d 652 (1972), and take them as true for purposes of
deciding whether they state a claim. Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322, 92 S. Ct.
1079, 1081, 31 L. Ed. 2d 263 (1972).
Pro se litigants' court submissions are to be construed liberally and held to
less stringent standards than submissions of lawyers. If the court can
reasonably read the submissions, it should do so despite failure to cite proper
legal authority, confusion of legal theories, poor syntax and sentence
construction, or litigant's unfamiliarity with rule requirements. Boag v.
MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 102 S.Ct. 700, 70 L.Ed.2d 551 (1982); Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106, 97 S.Ct. 285, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976)(quoting Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)); Haines v. Kerner,
404 U.S. 519, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972); McDowell v. Delaware State
Police, 88 F.3d 188, 189 (3rd Cir. 1996); United States v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 42
(3rd Cir. 1992)(holding pro se petition cannot be held to same standard as
pleadings drafted by attorneys); Then v. I.N.S., 58 F.Supp.2d 422, 429 (D.N.J.
The courts provide pro se parties wide latitude when construing their pleadings
and papers. When interpreting pro se papers, the Court should use common sense
to determine what relief the party desires. S.E.C. v. Elliott, 953 F.2d 1560,
1582 (11th Cir. 1992). See also, United States v. Miller, 197 F.3d 644, 648
(3rd Cir. 1999) (Court has special obligation to construe pro se litigants'
pleadings liberally); Poling v. K.Hovnanian Enterprises, 99 F.Supp.2d 502,
506-07 (D.N.J. 2000).
Defendant has the right to submit pro se briefs on appeal, even though they may
be in artfully drawn but the court can reasonably read and understand them. See,
Vega v. Johnson, 149 F.3d 354 (5th Cir. 1998). Courts will go to particular
pains to protect pro se litigants against consequences of technical errors if
injustice would otherwise result. U.S. v. Sanchez, 88 F.3d 1243 (D.C.Cir.
Moreover, "the court is under a duty to examine the complaint to determine if
the allegations provide for relief on any possible theory." Bonner v. Circuit
Court of St. Louis, 526 F.2d 1331, 1334 (8th Cir. 1975) (quoting Bramlet v.
Wilson, 495 F.2d 714, 716 (8th Cir. 1974)). Thus, if this court were to
entertain any motion to dismiss this court would have to apply the standards of
White v. Bloom. Furthermore, if there is any possible theory that would entitle
the Plaintiff to relief, even one that the Plaintiff hasn't thought of, the
court cannot dismiss this case.
help and helping others allowed ===============
Also see cites herein for members of group who are competent non-lawyers can
other members of group achieve the goals of the group in court without being
charged with "unauthorized practice of law"
NAACP V. BUTTON, 371 US 415 (1962);
SIERRA CLUB V. NORTON, 92 S.Ct. 1561;
UNITED MINE WORKERS V. GIBBS, 383 US 715.
Indeed, every federal circuit court of appeal that has addressed the
issue has determined that due process prohibits incarceration of an
indigent defendant in a civil contempt proceeding absent appointment of
counsel. See, e.g.: Walker v. McLain, 768 F.2d 1181, 1185 (10th Cir. 1985)
(due process requires appointment of counsel for indigent defendant
incarcerated in civil contempt proceeding for nonsupport), cert. denied,
474 U.S. 1061 (1986); Servier v. Turner, 742 F.2d 262, 267 (6th Cir.
1984) (same); Ridgway v. Baker, 720 F.2d 1409, 1415 (5th Cir. 1983)
(same); Henkel v. Bradshaw, 483 F.2d 1386, 1389 (9th Cir. 1973) (same); see
also United States v. Bobart Travel Agency, Inc., 699 F.2d 618, 620-21
(2d Cir. 1983) (defendant entitled to counsel in civil contempt
proceeding for failure to produce records that resulted in his incarceration);
United States v. Anderson, 553 F.2d 1154, 1156 (8th Cir. 1977) (same).
And the vast majority of state courts have reached the same result.
See, e.g.: McNabb v. Osmundson, 315 N.W.2d 9, 14 (Iowa 1982); Mead v.
Batchlor, 460 N.W.2d 493, 504 (Mich. 1990); McBride v. McBride, 431 S.E.2d
14, 18 n.2, 20 (N.C. 1993) (listing other state courts).
Moreover, the United States Supreme Court has consistently ruled, for
FIFTY YEARS that when ANY person faces a possibility of six (6) months
or more incarceration, for ANY reason, that situation triggers the Sixth
Amendment right to trial by Jury, even in contempt cases. See, e.g.:
United States Ex Rel Toth v. Quarles, 350 U.S. 11, 16 (1955); Green v.
United States, 356 U.S. 165, 217, n. 33, 78 S. Ct. 632, 2 L.Ed.2d 672
(1958) Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 145, 88 S.Ct. 1444, 20 L.Ed.2d 491
(1968); Bloom v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 194, 199, 201-202, 208-210 (1968);
Taylor v. Hayes, 418 U.S. 488, 495, 94 S.Ct. 2697, 41 L.Ed.2d 897 (1974);
International Union v. Bagwell, 512 U.S. 821, 114 S.Ct. 2552, 129
L.Ed.2d 642 (1994); and, etc.