Pro Se Standard of Review
- The following is from our Reply Brief to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Feel free to use it and pass it along to others.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. 1999).
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. 1996).
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.Thomas M. Dutkiewicz, President
Special Family Advocate
Connecticut DCF Watch
P.O. Box 3005
Bristol, CT 06011-3005
www.connecticutDCFwatch.comP.S. Check out our web site for the FREE handbook on parental rights. There is also a manual on "reasonable efforts" with sections for Attorneys, Judges and Agencies.(WE AT CONNECTICUT DCF WATCH ARE NOT ATTORNEYS AND ARE UNABLE TO OFFER ANY LEGAL ADVICE. ANY INFORMATION OR OPINIONS CONTAINED IN THIS EMAIL OR FROM CT DCF WATCH AND ITS MEMBERS IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. IF YOU CHOOSE TO USE ANY INFORMATION, YOU DO SO BY YOUR OWN CHOICE, CONVICTION AND RISK. WE ONLY OFFER UP AN OPINION FROM OUR POINT OF VIEW. WE ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY DECISIONS YOU CHOOSE TO MAKE OR FAIL TO MAKE. BEFORE MAKING ANY DECISIONS, SEEK LEGAL ADVISE FROM AN ATTORNEY IN THE AREA OF LAW YOU WISH TO PURSUE.)