The following sources regarding pro se litigation are from the librarian at LA Co Law Library as of Feb. 28, 2013….
TITLE: Pro Per; Pro se
right to proceed ‑ 1 Stat. 92, C.2d; Judiciary Act of 1789 Secs. 35 Title 28 USC 1654
Pro per held to same standard as attorney (First American Title v. Mirzain, 108
ca4th 956. Support for thesis comes from Barton v. New United Motor Mftg. 43 CA4th 1200 & Bianco v. California Highway patrol (24 CA4th 1113,1125‑26).
But see Gamet v. Blanchard, 91 Cal. App. 4th 1276 which says in part “Trial judges must acknowledge that in propria persona litigants often do not have an attorney’s level of knowledge about the legal system and are more prone to misunderstanding the court’s requirements. …special care should be used to make sure that verbal instructions given in court and written notices are clear and understandable by a layperson”. p. 1284
Rappleyea v. Campbell, 8 Cal. 4th 975: “But they should not be penalized because they represent themselves. In extreme cases like this, legal technicalities must, and under our statutes may, be tempered by justice”. P.985
More cites relating specifically to pro se litigants:
Filings of a layman pro se litigant are held to a less strict standard than the standard applied to filings drafted by lawyers. See Akao v. Shimada (9th Cir 1987) 832 F.2d 119. “Only a skilled lawyer is likely to file motions wholly free of procedural defects, … ” (Payne v. Superior Court (1976) 17 Cal.3d 908,926,n.9).
The layman pro se litigant is not expected to have “skill in the science of law”. “Even the intelligent and educated layman has small and sometimes no skill in the science of law.” (Gideon v. Wainwright (1962) 372 U.S. 335,345).
Because an overwhelming number of pro se litigants know little or nothing about legal procedures, case law, statutory interpretation, or phrasing pleadings and motions, courts are required to construe pro se petitions liberally. Haines v. Kerner (1972) 404 U.S. 519,520 (per curiam); accord Hughes v. Rowe (1980) 449 U.S. 5,15 (per curiam).
An unrepresented litigant should not be punished for his failure to recognize subtle factual or legal deficiencies in his claims. As the Court noted in Christiansburg, even if the law or the facts are somewhat questionable or unfavorable at the outset of litigation, a party may have an entirely reasonable ground for bringing suit. 434 U.S., at 422. (Hughes v. Rowe (1980) 449 U.S. 5,15 (per curiam) citing Christiansburg Garment Co. v. EEOC, 434 U.S. 412 (1978))