As usual, we were prowling the internet and looking over some of the forums where people who are representing themselves gather to discuss their issues and what we found was absolutely frightening.
First, a word of warning. People should be very, very careful about where they obtain information they intend to use to guide them in their lawsuits or in court. I’m always amazed at not only the amount of absolutely incorrect information out there but the vehemence with which its proponents try to convince people of its effectiveness.
If you are one of those who choose to believe that the government is forbidden to collect taxes, that courts have no authority because you are a sovereign person, or any of the other arguments which repeatedly fail then there is nothing we can do to convince you not to try these things. Just know that at the end of the case, when you lose, your attempts to blame the judge, the lawyers, or the system are misdirected. You should look in the mirror and then place the blame squarely where it belong, on your shoulder.
Most pro se litigants don’t lose because they choose to take this road however, they lose because they don’t understand the rules!
The process of a lawsuit is governed by a myriad of rules but generally they can be broken down into:
- Case law, which is law established by the courts
- Statutes – laws passed by the legislature
- The Rules of Civil Procedure – the framework for how trials and lawsuits work, and
- The Rules of Evidence – which govern how evidence is either admitted or excluded from consideration
We’ll go ahead and put a plug in here for our e-book, The Guerrilla Guide to Legal Research: Finding the Law for Non-Lawyers, which we believe is the best book available to teach a novice how to locate the various rules listed above and which contains a link to an absolutely free legal database as well as directions on how to use it!
Case law is unique, and very fact dependent. There rarely are two cases which have the exact same facts and therefore finding and applying case law is a bit of an art which requires guidance (if you haven’t done much legal research) but, in addition, also require a lot of practice so the sooner a litigant gets started the better off they are.
However, the Rules of Evidence and the Rules of Civil Procedure (also known as The Rules of Trial Procedure and a few other names) apply in every case and should be referred to throughout the proceeding. If one litigant does not understand these rules and the other one does, the one with the lack of understanding will lose 99% of the time because an understanding of the rules can be used to prevent evidence from being admitted or cause the pleadings in a case to be struck completely, leaving the party completely at the mercy of the court and the other side.
If your case is worth pursuing or defending then it is worth doing so correctly. If you can’t afford an attorney, and many people can’t, then there is no reason you can’t handle it yourself assuming you are willing to devote the time and energy necessary to read and learn the rules and law.
For a listing of all of our Guerrilla Guides to the Law please visit the web page devoted to them at this location.