- Guidelines for Conducting Hearings
3.1 Courtroom decorum. Judges should maintain courtroom decorum cognizant of the effect it will have on everyone in the courtroom, including self-represented litigants. Judges should ensure that proceedings are conducted in a manner that is respectful to all participants, including self-represented litigants.
3.2 Evidence. Judges shall adhere to the applicable rules of evidence, but may use their discretion, when permissible, to provide self-represented litigants the opportunity to meaningfully present their cases. Judges may ask questions to elicit general information and to obtain clarification. Judges should explain why the questions are being asked and that they should not be taken as any indication of the judge's opinion of the case.
3.3 Right of self-representation. In jury trials, judges should ask self-represented litigants whether they want a right to self-representation instruction.
3.4 Approval of settlement agreements. Judges should review the terms of settlement agreements, even those resulting from ADR, with the parties. Judges should determine whether the agreement was entered into voluntarily. If there are specific provisions through which a self-represented litigant waives substantive rights, judges should determine, to the extent possible, whether the waiver is knowing and voluntary.
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