Letter to the editor: SCOTUS discriminates against pro se litigants

The Supreme Court of the United States is involved in a disturbing and blatant form of systemic discrimination against pro se (unrepresented) litigants that needs to be corrected. It is ironic that the highest court in our land, charged with ensuring that the rules and laws of the country are fair and legal, is itself guilty of enacting a most unfair and arguably unlawful rule explicitly forbidding unrepresented litigants from participating in the Supreme Court oral argument process. Rule 28(8) of the Supreme Court of the United States dictates that “Oral arguments may be presented only by members of the Bar of this Court.” This is a blatantly unfair discriminatory rule against unrepresented litigants who should have the same right as represented litigants to participate in the oral argument process. Barring unrepresented litigants from this process is essentially an unlawful systemic form of discrimination against a class of people, i.e., unrepresented litigants. The Supreme Court happily welcomes and accepts the required $300 filing fee from the unrepresented litigants, and accordingly it should be treating the unrepresented litigants with the same degree of respect that it affords represented litigants. But it doesn’t do so and instead chooses to treat the unrepresented litigants as a cash cow as a means to provide a cash flow into the court’s coffers, while at the same time disallowing them the same processes afforded to the represented litigants.

It is not a well-kept secret that the courts disrespect the rights of unrepresented litigants and generally do not give high regard to the merits of their cases. The record speaks for itself in this regard via the overwhelming number of pro se cases that are dismissed, in many cases without so much as a cursory review. Longtime distinguished Judge Richard A. Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit sounded the alarm when he said, “The basic thing is that most judges regard these people as kind of trash not worth the time of a federal judge.” (“An Exit Interview With Richard Posner, Judicial Provocateur,” New York Times, Sept. 11, 2017.) This certainly was a red flag as to the need for judicial reforms as to the abusive treatment of pro se litigants in the courts of the United States, including the Supreme Court of the United States, no less with its cavalier rule explicitly forbidding pro se litigants from participating in the oral argument process.

The phrase “Equal justice under law” is engraved above the entrance of the United States Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. It is hardly “Equal justice under law” when the Supreme Court blatantly discriminates against a class of litigants who represent themselves by putting a rule in place disallowing the pro se litigants from the oral argument process. It is blatantly unfair to be collecting filing fees from pro se litigants to file their cases while at the same time refusing to allow them the same opportunity to participate in the oral argument process afforded to represented litigants. This is blatant systemic discrimination based on class. The Supreme Court should either remove the engraving “Equal justice under law” from the Supreme Court building, or it should remove its discriminatory Rule 28(8) and allow pro se litigants to equally present oral arguments before the court. The Supreme Court cannot have it both ways.

Brian Vukadinovich,
Wheatfield, Indiana

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