In Puerto Rico, the right to represent oneself—also known as self-representation or appearing pro se—is recognized for every natural person and extends to both the civil and criminal cases. However, the right to self-representation in a legal proceeding is not absolute and unrestricted. A judge must consider several factors to make a determination on whether to allow a person to proceed pro se.
To promote access to justice to those who appear pro se and to contribute to an effective self-representation in the court, the Judicial Branch created the Centros Pro Se.
What are the requirements you must meet in order to be able to represent yourself?
- You must not be represented by an attorney.
- You must decide to self-represent voluntarily and intelligently, and with full knowledge of the responsibility that this entails and that you will be treated as any other party represented by an attorney.
- You must be able to assume your own representation adequately and in accordance with the complexity of the issue being adjudicated.
- You must have the minimum knowledge necessary to defend your interests adequately, comply with procedural rules (the rules that establish how proceedings in the court will take place; for example, Rules of Civil Procedure, Rules of Evidence, among others) and invoke the applicable substantive law (the legal basis or grounds that apply to your claim).
- Self-representation may not cause or contribute to an undue delay or disruption of the proceedings or offend the dignity of the court, the parties, or their attorneys.
When can you request to self-represent?
It may be requested before or during the proceedings. If the proceeding has already begun, in addition to the above requirements, you must request authorization from the court to represent yourself and comply with the following:
- You must request to represent yourself in a timely manner; that is, the timing of your request will not cause delays, possible disruptions, or negatively affect the sound administration of justice. This determination will be made by the court.
- You must expressly and unequivocally (without a doubt) state your intent or desire to assume self-representation to the court.
What other important information should you know?
The judge will make sure that you meet these requirements throughout the proceeding.
- Failure to meet any of the these requirements will be good cause for the court to terminate self-representation.
- If the court terminates self-representation, it will order you appear represented by an attorney within a specific term.
- If you choose to assume self-representation, the judge presiding over the proceeding is not required to explain or inform you of the laws or rules that apply to court proceedings. Neither is the judge is required to appoint an attorney to counsel you during the process.
- If you choose to represent yourself, you will be subject to the same procedural requirements that attorneys must comply with. In addition, as a party, you will be treated as any other party who is represented by counsel.
What number can I call to receive an orientation?
To receive an orientation over the phone or by videoconference, you may call the Judicial Branch Information Line at (787) 641-6263 and select the option for support for self-represented litigants. You may also contact or visit the nearest Pro Se Center.
Revised: February 2023