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litigate without attorney?

Discussion in 'Alternative Dispute Resolution' started by doc0875, May 10, 2002.

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  1. doc0875

    doc0875 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    This seems like a simple question, but I've never heard it asked. Can a person bring a law suit in court without an attorney? If not, then why?
     
  2. jmacgregor

    jmacgregor New Member

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    You appear "Pro Se" in a legal action when you represent yourself directly in a legal action (in or out of court) and do not have an attorney speaking or writing for you. Though this method of litigation is becoming more popular, it has its share of drawbacks as well. Keep in mind that you don't know what a lawyer knows and necessarily how to perform appropriately in the role and environment you are facing.
     
  3. doc0875

    doc0875 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Pro Se

    I agree that an attorney knows things that I would not. However, the attorney's fees that are typically required upfront, without any guarantee of a subsequent cash award, makes litigation very prohibitive for the average person. What would be the drawback, other than a greater chance of "not winning?" It would take away the huge financial risk that litigating with the help of an attorney brings. What would I be out of? Court costs? How does one proceed in a "Pro Se" manner? Do I just walk into the court and say I want to file a law suit? It seems as though the legal profession has done a good job of keeping litigation proceedings shrouded in mystery, so as to keep themselves in perpetually high demand. The case I'm considering is one of wrongful termination and is, in my mind, not particularly complicated to argue from my standpoint.

    David
     
  4. jmacgregor

    jmacgregor New Member

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    Fair enough...
    There are a few things that I know of that may help. Some cost, some don't. I would have to say by far the most important move you can make is to study your ass off and learn all the angles you can attack from and be attacked from. Below are some sites you may check into. Another thing you might do is select a few people that are about as un-bias as you can find. More minds create more feedback. Use them as devil's advocates. If you are a student, use the resources around you on your campus such as libraries and above all the knowledge of professors. Try a philosophy professor or one that teaches about controversy.

    I will also tell you that I have experienced rather unpleasant results of Pro Se action. I attempted to defend myself in traffic court on a charge of Careless Operation of a Vehicle. Living in the "good-ol'-boy" state of South Carolina, you either buy into the legal system (hire a lawyer) or accept your loss. Anyway, I proceeded to educate the judge on automotive engineering and the laws of physics and how I in now way had lost control of the vehicle. I think he felt talked down to and threatened me with a new charge of reckless driving. To conclude my case, I quickly backed down and humbly accepted my $180 fine.

    Whatever your approach is, there are supporters out there and people very willing to assist you. Like I said, Pro Se is rapidly growing. Check these sites out for starters.

    http://www.id.uscourts.gov/pro-se.htm
    http://www.legalhelp.org/
    http://www.caught.net/prose/prose.htm
    http://www.ajs.org/prose.html

    Good luck,
    jM

    ps. Btw, you are on the best damn law site on the net.;)
     
  5. jmacgregor

    jmacgregor New Member

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  6. jmacgregor

    jmacgregor New Member

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    I just reviewed your profile and found a couple things we have in common. I was not aware you were a DO. This alone grabs my interest for 2 reasons. I am a healthcare provider, and I am pursuing law school with a particular interest in medicine. I would love to know more about your case and would be glad to assist you in any way I can.
    Feel free to contact me first via AOL IM, screen name: DjDosh or contact the administration of this web site for my e-mail address.

    jM
     
  7. CRAIG

    CRAIG New Member

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    If you do represent yourself Pro Se which is better a jury trial or a judge trial?
     
  8. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    This is a difficult question to answer and it depends upon the type of case, your skills, the county you are in, and more.

    A judge may give you the benefits of the doubt and knows you are pro se. A jury might not be as forgiving and you might come off as being less than stellar in front of them. Unless you are a very good presenter you could be safer in front of a judge.

    Then again, if you are in a smaller county (I'm in NYC) you may do better with a jury of your peers. A judge may be more accomodating to an attorney who doesn't try his patience and can get the job done expeditiously and whom he may know personally -- not that he is impartial but familiarity can be a benefit.
     
  9. NYClex

    NYClex New Member

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    Advantages of going pro se: You save the money for the attorney

    Disadvantages:

    -the courts still demand that you file all the paperwork correctly. The pro-se clerk at the courthouse might or might not be helpful, but you get no slack here: One missed deadline, one missed form, one thing wrong and you look at having your case dismissed, a summary judgment entered against you and the like. There are a lot of self help books on the market though which teach you how to draft a summons and complaint and so on. Still, this can be tricky.

    -An attorney (if he is good) knows the courts and how things are done, especially in smaller districts he might know all the judges and their peculiarities and idiosyncrasies. It should not matter, but it might. You on the other hand go in there for the first time in your life.

    -You probably face an attorney. Even if the judge is sympathetic, he has to be neutral and that means he will not help you when you get stuck. Your adversary probably is an attorney who knows how to take advantage of that.

    -You are on your own in the very important pre-trial phase. An attorney should know what to do about discovery and all the pre-trial motions which can be more important than the trial itself. You don't. You also will face deadlines which might become serious if you try to juggle litigation and your regular job. An attorney has smart books and tons of experience, his computer is full of discovery checklists telling him all the questions he is supposed to ask of witnesses and the adversary to win your case. You don't and might easily miss a decisive question.

    -Your attorney might know when it is a good time to compromise from experience with the other players and with similar cases. You don't and might miss that opportunity to end the litigation.


    So, my advice is: Yes, you can go pro-se, but you should really know what you are doing, you should diligently prepare which means putting in many many hours and you better have a very good case. Don't expect anyone in the courthouse to hold your hand.

    If on the other hand your case might go either way or even is a long shot (as judged by common sense) you better go with an attorney.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2004

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