Sanctions — Standards Applicable to Pro Se Litigants

From Graham v. Fleissner Law Firm, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41523 (E.D. Tenn. May 22, 2008):

[T]he Supreme Court has held that courts should liberally construe complaints filed by pro se parties, and they should not hold them to the same stringent standard required of licensed attorneys. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S. Ct. 594, 30 L. Ed. 2d 652 (1972). The Sixth Circuit recognized that for pro se plaintiffs there is a degree of latitude when "dealing with sophisticated legal issues," but the court did not find there to be "cause for extending this margin to straightforward procedural requirements that a layperson can comprehend as easily as a lawyer." Jourdan v. Jabe, 951 F.2d 108, 109 (6th Cir. 1991). In addition, pro se parties are not exempt from following the law, and the Sixth Circuit has noted that "a willfully underrepresented plaintiff volitionally assumes the risks and accepts the hazards that accompany self-representation." Graham-Humphreys v. Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Inc., 209 F.3d 552, 561 (6th Cir. 2000). Accordingly, the sanctions provided under Rule 11 can be applied to pro se plaintiffs.

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