Mark Gough and Emily Taylor Poppe, (Un)Changing Rates of Pro Se Litigation in Federal Courts, 45 Law & Soc. Inquiry 567 (2020).
There is widespread concern among scholars, court actors, and policymakers that the number of pro se litigants is increasing. However, we have little empirical evidence of the scope of pro se litigation, especially in the federal court system. Using data from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts on all civil case filings since 1999, we investigate the prevalence and rate of pro se litigation in federal district courts. We find no evidence of a dramatic rise in pro se litigation, but document substantial variation in rates of pro se litigation by type of case and circuit of filing. The results have implications for our understanding of self-representation and for the development of policies addressing access to civil justice.