Top Mistakes by People Representing Themselves in a Lawsuit

As our friends at Jurisdictionary pointed out in a recent email, people who choose to represent themselves do so for two main reasons:

1) They don't have the money to spend on a lawyer; and

2) They simply don't want to spend the money on a lawyer.

I'd propose a third reason;

3) They are convinced that they are just as smart as lawyers.

While #1 and #2 are choices made on empirical data, choice #3 is one that is often made on data which is incorrect. While you may be just as smart as an attorney, the chances are that you aren't as knowledgeable in the law.

The courts are weighted in the favor of lawyers and parties who have lawyers to be sure, but this is not always for the reasons that people who are conspiracy minded believe. Courts and Judges prefer that lawyers be involved because things run smoother and take less time.

When you start your case, remember that chances are good that the judges have already seen and heard from people representing themselves who try the BS that is so rampant on the internet. They have heard people claim that the court doesn't have jurisdiction because there is a yellow fringe on the flag (denoting an admiralty court), because the party has filed a notice not to recognize the jurisdiction, or because they have withdrawn from the United States, etc. None of these work no matter what the guy in the bunker in Nebraska types on the "interweb" assuring you that it does.

Instead, take the time to learn the following truths:

1) The way the court works is controlled by rules, usually called the Rules of Civil Procedure. These, as they have been interpreted by case law, direct the court, the parties, and the lawyers in how they must proceed.

2) The Rules of Evidence exist and govern how evidence must be admitted and when it is objectionable.

3) Laws is only viewed as having loopholes and technicalities by those who don't understand or those who are looking for a way to blame a loss on something other than themselves.

4) The judge isn't picking on you when the lawyer on the other side is winning all of the objections. They just know and understand the Rules of Evidence.

5) It makes you looks silly when you use legal terms incorrectly. When in doubt, say it in plain English.

6) The judge doesn't care what Black's Law Dictionary says.

7) The internet isn't a reputable source to cite, although some case law on the internet is.

8) With the exception of objections made at trial or in a hearing, if the judge doesn't sign a written order then in most cases it didn't happen as far as the law is concerned.

9) You must have case law to support your position and understand the reasoning behind it when arguing a point to a judge.

10) People who are pro se usually don't understand their case, what is important, the law, or what is not important.

All of the above truths are important because by using them you convince the court that you are not going to be one of those people appearing pro se who waste the court's time and needlessly drag a case out.

The final truth that you must know and understand is that, as a general rule, a judge feels that their time is much more important than anyone else's time in the world and so you need to bear this in mind and act accordingly.

NOTE: If you're going to represent yourself in a lawsuit, then the Guerrilla Guides to the Law offer a good, common sense approach to handling specific issues. They are packed with tips and "tricks" as well as just general information to make the whole process easier. Read more about them at this post. In addition, the folks at Jurisdictionary offer a great course on representing yourself in a lawsuit.

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