Pro Se Litigants Afforded Same Rights as those Represented by Counsel


And why shouldn’t they?

The New Jersey Appellate Court determined that pros se litigants are entitled to the same rights and relief as those who are represented by counsel in Ridge at Back Brook, LLC v. Klenert. This decision has significant impact for family attorneys dealing with pro se litigants, which can prove very frustrating. In this case, the plaintiff filed suit for unpaid dues against the defendant which had remained unpaid for over six years totaling more than $160,000. The defendant, who was strained financially and claimed he was unable to afford counsel acted as a pro se litigant. The plaintiff filed a Notice to Admit and the defendant failed to respond. As a pro se litigant, he misunderstood the Court Rules and did not timely respond to plaintiff’s requests for admissions pursuant to Rule 4:22, of which failure is deemed an admission to plaintiff’s allegations. The trial court granted the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and awarded plaintiff counsel fees and entered a judgment of over $260,000.

The defendant thereafter retained counsel and moved for relief pursuant to Rule 4:50. The trial court denied his motion. On appeal, the court determined that the trial court erred because it did not consider the defendant’s failures in representing himself and whether, considering fairness and equity, relief should be granted.

The court further declared:

"To be sure, we do not mean to suggest a self-represented party is entitled to a second chance in all instances - far from it. We merely hold that a pro se litigant is entitled to nothing less than that to which a litigant is entitled when represented by a negligent attorney."

A good rule of thumb when dealing with a pro se litigant is to make sure that all communications with pro se litigants are in writing in order to create a paper record. Dealing with pro se litigants can be very frustrating, but having that paper trail could save time and angst when arguing to the court whether or not the pro se litigant was provided with information or whether they are making desperate misrepresentations to the court; whether they followed the rule or whether they failed to do so. Do not give pro se litigants legal advice. The best advice that can be given is that they hire an attorney.

If you have a question or wish to discuss this topic with one of our family lawyers, please give Joe a call at (732) 352-9871.

Originally Posted 1/09/2018


The postings on this blog were created for general informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice or a solicitation to provide legal services.  Although we attempt to ensure that the postings are complete, accurate, and current as of the time of publication, we assume no responsibility for their completeness, accuracy, or timeliness.  The information in this blog is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship.  Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional legal counsel.

This blog may contain links to independent third party websites and services, including social media. We provide these links for your convenience, and you access them at your own risk.  We have no control over and do not monitor the content or policies (including privacy policies) of these third-party websites and have no responsibility for, and no liability with respect to, their content, accuracy, or reliability.  Unless expressly stated, we do not endorse any of the linked websites or any product, service, or publication referenced herein or therein.  We will remove a link to any site from this blog upon request of the linked entity.

We grant permission to readers to link to this blog so long as this blog is not misrepresented. This site is not sponsored or associated with any other site unless so identified.

If you wish for Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, P.A., to consider representing you, please obtain contact information from the Contact Us area of this blog or go to the firm’s website at  One of our lawyers will be happy to discuss the possibility of representation with you. However, the authors of Wilentz blogs are licensed only in New Jersey and/or New York and do not wish to represent anyone who viewed this site in a state where the site fails to comply with all laws and ethical rules of that state.

Thank you for your interest in Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer P.A.’s legal blogs. You will receive an email sent to the address entered in order to confirm your subscription. Please watch for it and click the link to confirm your subscription.