Devine v. Indian River County Sch. Bd

In Devine v. Indian River County Sch. Bd., 121 F.3d 576, 580 (11th Cir.1997), the Eleventh Circuit chose not to accept the plaintiffs' argument that the IDEA and its regulations authorize parental representation. 121 F.3d at 581. Instead, the court found no indication that Congress intended to allow parents to present evidence and examine witnesses on behalf of their children in federal court proceedings. The court noted, "In the absence of such intent, we are compelled to follow the usual rule--that parents who are not attorneys may not bring a pro se action on their child's behalf--because it helps to ensure that children rightfully entitled to legal relief are not deprived of their day in court by unskilled, if caring, parents." Id. at 582. The Devine court concluded that the question whether a party may appear pro se in proceedings before a district court cannot be effectively reviewed on appeal. "The right to represent one's self is effectively lost if not immediately vindicated," because the harm in erroneously denying a party leave to proceed pro se is that it injures his dignity and autonomy, something that cannot later be repaired. 121 F.3d at 580. The Court explained that the second prong of the collateral-order doctrine-that the appeal resolve an important issue completely separate from the merits of the action-is met in an appeal of the denial of a motion to proceed pro se when the denial is separate from the merits of the underlying claim. Id. at 579. And the third circumstance-that the denial be effectively unreviewable from a final judgment- is satisfied because the right to self-representation is effectively lost if not immediately vindicated. The harm in erroneously denying a party leave to proceed pro se is that it injures his/her dignity and autonomy, and this harm cannot be repaired after a judgment on the merits. Id. at 580.