Table 4

Interpretation of Elements in Proposed Pro Se Competence Standard

Element of Pro Se Competence StandardAbilities Included
Ability to conduct trial-related tasksAbility to engage in trial-relevant goal-directed behavior (such as organizing defense strategies); make reasoned choices about defense; communicate adequately (either alone or with assistance of interpreter or standby counsel) with judge, jury, and other courtroom actors (e.g., when making motions or arguing points of law); and engage in constructive social intercourse (e.g., when examining or cross-examining witnesses).
Conducting trial-related tasks with a reasonable degree of rational understandingAbility to control one’s emotions and behavior in a courtroom setting.
Having a rational and factual understanding of the proceedingsUnderstanding and appreciating the legal process and how it applies to the defendant’s particular case.
Having a rational basis for requesting self-representationIncludes dissatisfaction with counsel for plausible reasons (e.g., counsel is unavailable or too passive, or ideological disagreements about defense approach), but excludes dissatisfaction for irrational or delusional reasons (e.g., that counsel is trying to kill defendant or is part of conspiracy to imprison defendant).
Being willing to accept the assistance of standby counselAppreciation that standby counsel can help defendant carry out defense-related tasks as needed (e.g., by helping navigate complex courtroom procedures or by coherently communicating to courtroom actors in cases of defendant physical disability or illiteracy) while not compromising defendant’s ability to conduct defense.