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Articles by John Midgley

Pro Se Tips and Tactics

The Supreme Court recently decided
another in a series of cases about when prisoners can sue directly under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, versus when they must first employ habeas corpus proceedings, to challenge actions by prison officials. The difference is very important because if a prisoner must follow the ...

Pro Se Tips and Tactics: Magistrate Judges in Federal Courts

If you are representing yourself in federal court, you should become familiar with how prison cases may be handled by magistrate judges. This column looks at magistrate judge authority in federal cases, and at a recent Supreme Court case about magistrate judge procedure, Roell v. Withrow, 123 S.Ct 1696 ...

Pro Se Tips and Tactics: Damages

1. Overview of Punitive Damages


When people discuss "money damages" in connection with a lawsuit for personal injury, they are usually thinking of damages that relate directly to the injury. Examples include money to compensate a plaintiff for lasting physical injury or pain, medical expenses, and sometimes emotional suffering as ...

Pro Se Tips and Tactics

If you are litigating or planning a case in federal court against state prison officials, it is very important to be clear about what rights you are asserting and what relief you are requesting. Federal courts are not allowed to simply order states to comply with all federal laws that ...

Pro Se Tips and Tactics

The Supreme Court recently decided a case that may affect where you want to file a lawsuit against state defendants. There are some circumstances in which you may want to file your claims, including your federal claims, in state court.

1. The Lapides Case

The recent case is Lapides v ...

Pro Se Tips and Tactics: Unknown Defendant Identities

A recent Supreme Court case highlights a problem some prisoners face in finding the exact identities of defendants in civil rights cases. This column discusses this problem and some possible solutions.

In most cases, you must sue individuals and not governmental or corporate entities : In Correctional Services Corp. v. Malesko ...

Pro Se Tips and Tactics

In this column, I discuss things you might consider in trying to settle a case you have filed. As always, I assume you have filed a civil rights case in federal court, challenging as illegal some prison condition or practice that has been imposed on you.

1. Why Settle?

There ...

Pro Se Tips and Tactics

The Supreme Court recently decided a case that could have an impact on prisoners who provide (free of charge) legal assistance to other prisoners. In this column, I discuss this new case and its implications.

In April, the Court unanimously decided that a prisoner does not have a special First ...

Pro Se Tips and Tactics

By John Midgley

Many prisoners have difficulties obtaining good medical care. Often prisoners assume that every failure on the part of the prison system to provide adequate medical care is a constitutional violation that can be remedied in federal court, but this assumption is not correct. In this column, I ...

Pro Se Tips and Tactics

Supreme Court on Kind and Quality of Appellate Counsel

by John Midgley

In three recent decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the kind and quality of representation to which people are entitled on appeal of their criminal convictions. If your conviction is on appeal (or should have been appealed ...