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3. Pro se possibility, advisability

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  • Alaska

    There is no legal reason why an individual cannot sue on his or her own behalf, without a lawyer. Individuals around the state have done so on such issues, with varying degrees of success. Whether it is advisable on any particular case obviously depends on the individual involved, the likelihood and nature of the opposition and the complexity of the legal issues involved.

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  • Arizona

    Due to procedural complexities of the special action and the technical nature of the OML, pro se plaintiffs may run into difficulty.

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  • Arkansas

    While a litigant may represent himself in an FOIA case, as in any other civil action, proceeding pro se is not advisable. See Dauer v. Ponder, 274 Ark. 166, 623 S.W.2d 3 (1981) (FOIA plaintiff who chose to represent himself “necessarily must succeed or fail on [his] knowledge or ability”). Arkansas procedural rules are not particularly user-friendly. For example, rather than allow the simplified “notice pleading” used in the federal courts, Arkansas remains a “fact pleading” jurisdiction. Harvey v. Eastman Kodak Co., 271 Ark. 783, 610 S.W.2d 582 (1981) (explaining Ark. R. Civ. P. 8(a)).

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  • California

    Although the Acts provide that any person may commence an action in court and it is permissible for an individual to represent himself in an individual capacity (pro se), it is not advisable to attempt to draft the required pleadings and participate in the subsequent proceedings without the assistance of an attorney. Drafting pleadings and supporting papers that contain the requisite claims and contentions in a format that meets the legal requirements is technically challenging for a pro se litigant. It is likely that any local agency or body whose action is challenged will be represented by City or County Counsel, who will seek to challenge the sufficiency of the pleadings to obtain a dismissal of the action without a decision on the merits.

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  • Colorado

    Although no rule restricts an applicant from filing an action pro se to enjoin an agency from holding closed meetings, any non-lawyer who acts as a lawyer on his or her own behalf is held to the same rules and knowledge of the law as an attorney. See Viles v. Scofield, 128 Colo. 185, 261 P.2d 148 (1953). Because the public body will most likely be represented by the Attorney General or agency counsel, a pro se litigant would be at a distinct disadvantage.

    Corporations. Under Colorado law, a corporation cannot appear or proceed pro se. Bennie v. Triangle Ranch Co., 73 Colo. 586, 216 P. 718 (1923); Woodford Mfg. Co. v. A.O.Q. Inc., 772 P.2d 652 (Colo. App. 1989); BPQ Industries Inc. v. State Bd. of Equalization, 694 P.2d 337 (Colo. App. 1984). A pleading which purports to be filed by a corporation pro se is in violation of law and null and void for all purposes. See Bennie v. Triangle Ranch Co., supra; Woodford Mfg. Co. v. A.O.Q. Inc., 772 P.2d at 654.

    The sole exception to this general rule is allowed under Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-1-127(2), which allows a corporation to appear through an officer or director where the amount in controversy does not exceed $10,000.00, the corporation is closely held, and there has been a written resolution signed by at least 50 percent of the shareholders. See Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-1-127(2)(a) and (b).

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  • Connecticut

    FOIA does not contain provisions about pro se representation, nor are there any reported court decisions on the topic.

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  • Delaware

    It is inadvisable to proceed pro se due to the subtleties of the Act and procedural requirements of litigation. Petition the Attorney General pursuant to 29 Del. C. § 10005(e).

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  • District of Columbia

    Not specifically addressed.

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  • Georgia

    A suit to enforce the Act may be brought pro se, but legal assistance is typically useful in presenting the issues and expediting their resolution. See also O.C.G.A. § 50-14-5(b) (authorizing the award of attorney fees to the prevailing party under certain circumstances).

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  • Hawaii

    There are no requirements that an attorney be engaged, but technicalities of the act and procedural requirements of litigation make it advisable to retain an attorney.

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  • Idaho

    There is no prohibition against bringing a pro se action under the Open Meeting Law. However, one can expect some difficulty in mustering the evidentiary proof necessary to establish that a decision or deliberation occurred in a closed meeting, and experienced counsel can make that task easier.

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  • Illinois

    Since the Illinois process involves drafting a complaint in circuit court, service of process, the potential necessity of drafting affidavits and preparing witnesses, it is probably inadvisable to proceed pro se.

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  • Indiana

    An individual (but not a corporation) may appear pro se, but pro se litigants are held to the same standard as parties represented by counsel. Diaz v. Carpenter, 650 N.E.2d 688, 691 (Ind. App. 1995). Therefore, it is not advisable to proceed pro se unless the individual has an intimate knowledge of legal procedures and analysis. Note that a pro se attorney cannot receive attorney’s fees under the Access to Public Records Act, and the same result could occur under the Open Door Law. See Marion Cnty. Election Bd. v. Bowes, 53 N.E.3d 1203, 1209 (Ind. Ct. App. 2016).

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  • Iowa

    Proceeding pro se is permissible but not advisable. There are numerous procedural pitfalls in an action seeking judicial review; the issues are relatively technical; and the party whose meeting one seeks to open will always be represented by counsel. Proceeding pro se may limit the party’s ability to receive attorney’s fees if they are successful. See Fritzsche v. Scott Cty., No. 09-0860, 2010 WL 2383913, at *4 (Iowa Ct. App. June 16, 2010) (finding “a pro se attorney litigant may not seek an award or attorney fees under section 21.6(3)(b)”).

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  • Kansas

    A person may proceed pro se, but K.S.A. 75-4320a(d) provides for the award of costs to a defendant if an action is frivolous, not in good faith or without reasonable basis in fact or law.

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  • Kentucky

    The option is available for a litigant but not advisable, due to the complexities of the Open Meetings Act.

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  • Louisiana

    As with any lawsuit, it is possible but probably not advisable to proceed pro se. Louisiana courts are unaccustomed to litigation conducted by pro se plaintiffs. The litigant's lack of familiarity with court rules and procedures may increase the risk of waiving or failing to assert properly the right of access to meetings.

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  • Maine

    Any individual may proceed pro se. Most entities (e.g., corporations) must be represented by counsel.  A challenge can be brought pro se and the courts are generally solicitous of a pro se claim.  However, governmental entities are represented by counsel and will have the upper hand against unrepresented claimants.

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  • Maryland

    Because the action of the public body is presumed correct, proceeding pro se may not be advisable. § 3-401(c).

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  • Massachusetts

    An individual reporter, editor, or citizen may appear pro se. However, unless also a lawyer, he or she may not represent others or appear for a corporation. Varney Enterprises Inc. v. WMF Inc., 402 Mass. 79, 520 N.E.2d 1312 (1988) (corporation may not appear through corporate officer who is not licensed attorney).

    Pro se appearance in court is normally not advisable. The law in this area is becoming fairly complex and at least some judges do not particularly care for either pro se litigants or the press generally.

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  • Michigan

    The availability of actual attorney’s fees for a plaintiff who prevails in an action under the act is intended to provide access to legal services. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.271(4).

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  • Montana

    The court will permit pro se application. However, since the efficacy of quick resolution of an open meetings question may depend upon appropriate pleading and proof, it is not advisable for a person to attempt to gain access to a public body through pro se court action.

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  • Nebraska

    Complaining party may bring case pro se. It is probably wiser to ask the county attorney or attorney general to bring suit. Members should inquire to Nebraska Press Association or Nebraska Broadcasters Association.

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  • Nevada

    Pro se representation is possible at the district court.

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  • New Jersey

    It is usually inadvisable to attempt a pro se court action because of the substantive and procedural complexities involved.

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  • New Mexico

    A pro se filing under the Open Meetings Act is possible but would be difficult and the public body will be represented by legal counsel.

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  • North Carolina

    Although a person seeking relief under the Open Meetings Law is entitled to proceed pro se, such procedure is generally not advisable because the public body invariably will be represented by counsel.

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  • North Dakota

    Pro se suits are not advisable in most instances. In many cases, the State Broadcasters Association or the North Dakota Newspaper Association will assist with either an amicus curiae brief or with the financing of the suit.

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  • Ohio

    The statute does not bar pro se actions, but litigation in this area is highly specialized with the public sector having experienced counsel and generally an advantage because the public body knows more about what it did or what it is going to do than does the person seeking to enforce the statute.

    Also, pro se litigants are unlikely to be awarded attorneys' fees. See Fant v. Bd. of Trustees, Regional Transit Auth., 50 Ohio St.3d 72, 552 N.E.2d 639, cert. denied, 498 U.S. 967 (1990).

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  • Oklahoma

    It is possible to proceed pro se if one has a grasp of the wording in the Act, i.e. what is a public body, what is a meeting, etc. With a little knowledge, a petition could be drafted. However, the Act does not specifically provide for civil relief. Therefore, the petition must be drafted to seek either injunctive or declarative relief in district court, or possibly a writ in the State Supreme Court. It would be advisable to engage legal help in pursuing such a course to ensure that the procedural guidelines are followed. Otherwise, the action could be dismissed without ever reaching the substantive issue.

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  • Oregon

    While it is possible for a person affected by a public meetings violation to act pro se, it may not be advisable in circuit court.

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  • Rhode Island

    Bringing an action pro se is possible but not advisable for procedural reasons.

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  • South Carolina

    Pro se relief is possible, but is probably not the wisest course.

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  • South Dakota

    Inadvisable, if only because of procedural pitfalls, but possible.

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  • Tennessee

    Pro se representation is possible. The success of such pro se actions may depend upon the receptivity of the judge to such representation and how well settled the issues of law are.

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  • Texas

    In Texas, it is not advisable to attempt to remedy violations of the Open Meetings Act on a pro se basis. The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure are extremely complex to a layperson and the governmental body will almost certainly have counsel representing it.

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  • Utah

    Although it is certainly possible for individuals to represent themselves in a pro se lawsuit challenging a violation of the Open Meetings Act, this is not always advisable. The laws relating to open meetings in Utah are somewhat complex, and it is usually beneficial to seek legal advice.

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  • Virginia

    The Act does not require that a natural person be represented by an attorney. In general district court, Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3713.B. relaxes the general rule of Virginia law that a corporate entity must be represented by an attorney. Generally, assistance of counsel is advisable.

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  • Washington

    Pro se actions are difficult. They require not only familiarity with rules concerning filing and serving a lawsuit but scheduling a hearing as well. Pro se litigants must be aware that they may be liable for attorneys’ fees if they lose and the court finds that their action was frivolous. RCW 42.30.120(2).

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  • West Virginia

    It is possible for such a petition to be filed pro se (without the assistance of a lawyer), although the Act does not address this situation in particular. Whether filing a petition pro se is advisable depends upon the complexity of the facts involved and the knowledge of the person filing the petition. The advisability of proceeding without a lawyer is discussed in more detail in the section on the Freedom of Information Act. Suffice it to say that, in most cases, representation by an attorney is to be preferred.

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  • Wyoming

    Individuals may appear pro se, but not corporations.  Experiences of those contesting violations of the Act pro se has not been positive.

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