BEYOND BARS: Suggested Reading for Pro Se Representation

By Jeffrey Vincent McGee
Buford, GA

Dear Fellow Jailhouse Lawyer Members,

The purpose of this letter is to confer information about legitimate resource materials and their use.

Many incarcerated individuals who have decided to challenge their cases pro se face common obstacles: finding, understanding, and applying legit legal research and reference textbooks (and not just Citebook or Prisoners’ Self-Help Litigation Manuals). My own informal legal education faced the same challenges. However, after nine years of study and inquiry, I’m not able to suggest “real” titles to those who are or strive to be serious litigators.

Initially, purchase, study, and complete a paralegal course (Blackstone Career Institute’s course is adequate). The course will provide your legal foundation upon which you will build, and it contains an excellent legal research tutorial. Second, obtain a post-conviction remedies text (see State Post-conviction Remedies and Relief Handbook by Professor Donald E. Wilkes, Jr.); the text is excellent for finding remedies with case cites that exist within your state. Third, obtain a trial advocacy treatise (See Modern Trial Advocacy: Analysis and Practice by Steven Lubet); it will reveal almost every “tool” an attorney uses to analyze, prepare for, and conduct a criminal or civil trial. Fourth, obtain an appellate advocacy course (See Appellate Advocacy: Principles and Practice by Ursula Bentele and Eve Cary); it will unveil the nuts, bolts, and procedures utilized by appeal lawyers. And fifth, obtain a refresher course on Standard English; legal writing requires a command of language that cannot be overemphasized.

Finally, pro se litigators want to prevail, not just participate. Incarcerated litigators want their convictions overturned, not just reviewed. My hope is that the above reading suggestions not only change your perspective about the law but also educate you.
Never lose hope. ■