Ghostwriting-More than Meets the Eye; Ghostwriting-Attorneys in Disguise: A Proposal for Handling Pro Se Parties Who Seek Limited Representation in Federal Court

Attorney ghostwriting occurs when a party appears before a court without disclosing to the court that they have retained counsel, and the retained counsel writes briefs that the court and opposing counsel believe are authored by the apparently pro se party. This practice has received significant criticism, especially from federal court judges. This criticism arises because the Supreme Court of the United States has directed that pro se pleadings should be read “with less stringent standards” than those accorded to pleadings prepared by an attorney, and when an attorney ghostwrites a pleading for a party that appears to be proceeding pro se, the court reads these arguments more liberally than it otherwise might. Courts, bar associations, ethics boards, and commentators have taken numerous steps and made multiple recommendations in response to this practice. Some have suggested that attorney ghostwriting be allowed without any regulation, arguing that it does not in fact pose a true problem for the courts. Others have argued that some instances of attorney ghostwriting should be allowed, as long as the court has some notice that a party is receiving the assistance of counsel. And others have maintained that the practice constitutes a form of fraud and should be banned outright.

Photo Credit: Tulane Public Relations; Flickr