Lay persons may represent themselves in the South Carolina Court of Appeals. But they will be held to the same standards that apply to attorneys. So pro se appellants face the same error-preservation and procedural rules that have tripped up many attorneys.
“There is a statutory right to proceed pro se in South Carolina. S.C. Code Ann. § 40-5-80 (1986).” Washington v. Washington, 308 S.C. 549, 550, 419 S.E.2d 779, 780 (1992). But this does not make it wise.
The South Carolina Supreme Court’s website warns, “If you pursue your appeal without the assistance of a lawyer, you nevertheless are required to comply with the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules.” The Court put it this way: “A pro se litigant who knowingly elects to represent himself assumes full responsibility for complying with substantive and procedural requirements of the law.” State v. Burton, 356 S.C. 259, 265 n. 5, 589 S.E.2d 6, 9 n. 5 (2003).
Citing Burton, the Court of Appeals has held that lay persons who represent themselves must:
• raise an issue in the trial court to later raise it on appeal. Steffens v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC, Op. No. 2017-UP-268 (S.C. Ct.App. filed July 5, 2017); Champion v. South Carolina Dept. of Motor Vehicles, Op. No. 2016-UP-009 (S.C. Ct. App. filed January 13, 2016); Graham v. Graham, Op. No. 2004-UP-046 (S.C. Ct. App. filed January 21, 2004);
• make a Rule 59 motion for the trial court to rule on an issue that was not ruled on. Myers v. Kaufmann, Op. No. 2016-UP-125 (S.C. Ct. App. filed March 2, 2016).;
• state the issue in the statement of issues presented for review and argue the issue in the body of their briefs. Diabate v. MUSC, Op. No. 2004-UP-361 (S.C. Ct. App. filed June 4, 2004);
• cite to the Record on Appeal in their briefs. Stroman v. Robinson, Op. No. 2005-UP-005 (S.C. Ct. App. filed January 7, 2005).
Lawyers often stumble over these same requirements. Examples may be found here, here, and here. So it may be too much to ask from lay persons. The United States Circuit Court for the Fourth Circuit, which covers South Carolina, employs a much more informal process in federal pro se appeals.
What do you all think? Should pro se litigants be held to the same standards as attorneys? Why or why not?