Going to court is never an enjoyable experience. With the substantial cost of attorney fees, having to gather a significant amount of evidence, and having to spend lengthy amounts of time in the lawyer’s office, fighting for your legal rights becomes overwhelming. There is a solution, however. Pro-Se Litigation is a type of legal strategy in which you represent yourself in civil suits. Luckily, there is hope; you…
For lawyers, in contrast, the legal system is an array of procedures that begin long before trial (and often continue long afterwards). In fact, few cases ever actually make it to trial. Instead, they settle out of court—or are dismissed—because of these pretrial procedures. Although individually justifiable, collectively these procedures create the potential for adversaries to engage in lengthy “paper wars” that you might find harrowing. Many lawyers are fair and reasonable and will not try to “paper you to death.” Nevertheless, you have to realize from the outset that representing yourself effectively is likely to require a substantial commitment of time—even if your case never goes to trial.
Trial attorneys who are not mindful of the psychological and sociological elements at play when litigating against pro se parties risk exacerbating an already difficult situation by increasing the likelihood of protracted and unfocused litigation, appealable procedural missteps, and unmanaged expectations. Thus, at the outset of the lawsuit, an attorney facing a pro se opponent should make every effort to determine what is motivating the litigation (e.g., hurt feelings, anger, unmitigated expectations) and, if possible, the reason for the lack of representation. Throughout the pretrial process and during trial, a primary objective of counsel should be to strategically allow the pro se litigant to air his or her grievances in such a way as to limit the scope of triable issues while still being satisfied with his or her day in court.
This book explains rules and techniques for preparing and trying a civil case, including how to handle a case in family court or bankruptcy court. It does not cover criminal cases. See “Civil and Criminal Cases,” below. You will learn how to figure out what evidence you need to present a legally solid case, whether you are a plaintiff or a defendant. Among other things, you will learn:
In General. This and the other pleading forms available from the www.uscourts.gov website illustrate some types of information that are useful to have in complaints and some other pleadings. The forms do not try to cover every type of case. They are limited to types of cases often filed in federal courts by those who represent themselves or who may not have much experience in federal courts.