Assisting Pro Se Litigants—The Varying Dos and Don’ts of Limited Scope Representation

The U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado clarified Colorado Rule 1.2(c), on limited scope representation in an order that was precipitated by a disagreement over the type of assistance that an attorney is permitted to provide a pro se litigant.

The Court found that an attorney is not permitted to draft general documents or documents that a pro se litigant is submitting to the court or to opposing counsel. Also, that an attorney may not communicate with opposing counsel on behalf of a pro se litigant, even if the pro se litigant is included in the communication.

However, the Court did find that an attorney may speak with a pro se litigant to provide advice. The order also allows an attorney to attend a pro se litigant’s hearing as a member of the public, and to assist a pro se litigant with clerical tasks, such as locating forms and sample documents.

It is interesting to note how the Colorado order differs from Florida’s Rule of professional Responsibility 4-1.2. In Florida, a lawyer is permitted to provide advice to a pro se litigant concerning the operation of the court system, and with drafting pleadings and responses. If the document will be submitted to the court the attorney must indicate that the document was prepared with the assistance of counsel.

Thus, states differ on the do’s and don’t for limited scope representation so it is important for attorneys to stay informed of their state rules pertaining to assisting pro se litigants. For more information click here, for Florida rule 4-1.2 click here. To read the Order, click here.

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