Will Rangel Risk Representing Himself in His Ethics Trial?

Rep. Charlie Rangel has been clamoring for a House ethics trial to evaluate charges against him, but now that the ethics panel has set the date for Nov. 15, the Harlem Democrat is caught off guard. Rangel has apparently parted ways with his lawyers, for unknown reasons, and is considering representing himself on 13 counts of ethics violations.

This would be a risky move. Rangel has become emotional when defending himself against the committee's charges before--most notably in a floor speech in August that slammed Democrats, Republicans, and even his own legal team--and could potentially turn his trial into a post-election spectacle. And the practice of pro se representation, forgoing a lawyer to represent oneself in court, is almost always recommended against. It is very rare that someone without a legal degree is able to mount a defense equivalent to that of trained attorneys.

Rangel, however, went to law school and worked as a lawyer for a few years before entering politics. There are also a few advantages that come with representing oneself, most notably that judges tend to be more lenient, allowing pro se litigants to get more information on the record than trained attorneys might be able to. In some cases, self-representation can also be a means of running out the clock.

Below, notable pro se litigants who saw varying degrees of success. Will Rangel add his name to the list?
    

Presented by

Nicole Allan is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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