People who choose to represent themselves in court are called “pro-se” or “self-represented litigants”. A person should think carefully before deciding to represent himself or herself. The process takes time,patience and can be confusing.
Pro-se parties are expected to know the same rules that attorneys do. The justice court provides some resources, but court staff cannot provide legal advice. The staff can provide general information about court rules, procedures and schedules.
In a criminal case, a party may be eligible for a court appointed attorney. During a court hearing the person charged with a crime (defendant) may request a court-appointed attorney (also known as public defender). To determine if the defendant qualifies for a public defender, he/she will need to fill out an Affidavit of Indigency (financial affidavit). This document is reviewed by the judge, and the judge determines if the defendant qualifies or not.
If you are charged with an infraction, you will not be eligible for a court appointed attorney.
If the judge approves the request for a public defender, the defendant may be required at a later point in the case to pay all or at least a portion of the fee for the use of the public defender’s services.
If a public defender is approved by the judge, the court will give the defendant information about how to contact the assigned public defender.