Have you handled an appeal (or for that matter a trial!), against a self-represented (non-lawyer) party? Among appellate circles, this conjures images of briefs violating the Rules of Court and appellate procedure–such as single spaced submissions, failure to cite to the record, failure to affirmatively assign error and support it with citation to authority, word length violations and all too frequently, colorful ad hominem attacks. But then, how would it be if a non-doctor performed surgery? Too harsh? To those that have "grappled" with such briefs, blood may still be the correct image–from hair torn out trying to determine where issues and argument begin and end. Been there?
I recall a fine trial lawyer that used to pop into my office every now and again and demand that I show him all the code provisions that apply only for the benefit of pro se litigants. "They must be in there somewhere!" he would rant. He was just venting–sort of. I reminded him of the general principle that cases be decided on the merits, but he wasn’t amused one little bit. "Merit?!!" he would rage.
I can only wonder at his incredulity had I shown him this: "That [Plaintiff] is representing himself does not except him from these standards. Lack of legal counsel does not entitle a petitioner to special treatment (Wantuch v. Davis (1995) 32 Cal.App.4th 786, 795; Harding v. Collazo (1986) 177 Cal.App.3d 1044, 1055; Doran v. Dreyer (1956) 143 Cal.App.2d 289, 290); a pro se litigant is held to the same restrictive rules of procedure as an attorney (Nelson v. Gaunt (1981) 125 Cal.App.3d 623, 638-639). ‘A doctrine generally requiring or permitting exceptional treatment of parties who represent themselves would lead to a quagmire in the trial courts, and would be unfair to the other parties to litigation.’ (Rappleyea v. Campbell (1994) 8 Cal.4th 975, 985.)" (Wilmshurst v. Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board 2010 Cal.App.Unpub. LEXIS 9381, *8-9.)
Have you moved to strike a "chaotic" opening brief filed by an unrepresented appellant? Any luck with that? Did it cause you to wonder what would happen if you filed a brief like that? Do the above citations just give you the impression of somebody winking?