Best Blog Posts For Pro Se Litigants – The 2019 Edition

In our blog, we generally post about legal news, access to justice issues, and civil procedure in almost equal parts. In 2019 though, we focused more on how-to, legal strategy, and civil procedure.

Our top posts took on topics like amending pleadings, finding the elements of claims and affirmative defenses, and defeating summary judgment. We also posted about lawyer behaviors, Courtroom5 in the news, and pro se litigant types.

Below, we highlight posts that you found engaging and useful in 2019. They’re posts a pro se litigant shouldn’t miss. So, enjoy reading–or re-reading–our top posts of 2019.

The 10 Most Popular Posts

This award is based on the number of comments about the post on our blog and the popularity of the post in other places, like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. People comment on posts when it moves or engages them. The 10 below struck a chord with many in 2019. The best thing about our posts is that there are very few 1-sentence comments on them. Instead, comments on our top posts tend to have depth and substance without name calling, which further proves the value of our popular 10.


Get a Fair Hearing in Court

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1. Tricks Are For Lawyers: A Guide For Dealing With Bad Lawyer Behaviors

To be your own lawyer, you have to face some obstacles. The biggest is an opponent’s lawyer, and they don’t play fair. Using Donald Best’s “9 Tips for dealing with an Abusive Lawyer” as a jumping off point, we discuss bad lawyer behaviors and ways to avoid or address them.

2. When You Understand Motions And Pleadings You Can Escape Dull Forms and Take Over Your Case

The vast majority of civil pro se litigants don’t write their own motions and pleadings. They use pre-printed forms instead. Forms are easy to understand and quick to complete. They speed up the judicial process. With forms, clerks spend less time explaining rules. Judges can review information at a glance. Pro se litigants can take shortcuts by using forms. Complete the required sections, and you’re done. Sometimes all you need to do is sign! While litigation documents are more difficult to produce than forms, they give you more control of your case strategy.

3. 7 People You Want On Your Legal Team When You Represent Yourself In Court

Wouldn’t you like to go into court with a posse, a team of people to come to your aid when you need them? While there’s nothing quite like a sports team in litigation, you can have a ragtag legal team as long as you don’t go all formal about it.

4. How To Write A Motion – A Guide And Sample Motions For Pro Se Litigants

Far too often pro se litigants lose cases where they should win – all because of problems writing a motion. This should never happen, but it does. These tips will give you a better likelihood of succeeding, especially in cases where you have the law, the facts, or both on your side.

5. Correcting Your Case With Amendments And Supplements

Though you can’t go through a clerk’s files and pull documents to edit them, you can correct the record by using amendments and supplements. They essentially let you make a mistake and correct it later without harming your case. So, never feel as if you’re stuck with something you wrote. If it’s inaccurate, add something that corrects it.

6. A Quick Guide To Defeating Summary Judgment

Too often, a pro se litigant starts looking for help only when served with a summary judgment motion by the opposing party’s lawyer. It’s the worst possible time to learn the necessary legal skills, but it need not be fatal to your case. Here are the key steps to take in defeating summary judgment.

7. Courtroom5 Co-founder Sonja Ebron Makes A Second Appearance On Pro Se Nation TV

In her first appearance on the television program Pro se Nation last year, our co-founder Sonja Ebron discussed an array of topics, including her most challenging situations as a pro se litigant, reactions of friends and family to her pro se status, and treatment of self-represented litigants by lawyers, judges, paralegals, and others in the court system. In her second appearance, Sonja and host MaryLynn discussed the difficult and lonely journey pro se litigants must traverse in our courtrooms. They also talked about the response of subscribers to finding and using Courtroom and surprises since the launching of the company. Supporting pro se litigants is something Sonja Ebron is passionate about, and it shows.

8. Attorney At Law Magazine Features Courtroom5 As Legal Innovator

You know you’ve made it when lawyers say nice things about you. Okay, just kidding. But it’s great to see pro se litigants get the respect we all deserve. Check out this feature story about Courtroom5 in Attorney At Law Magazine.

9. If You’re A Pro Se Plaintiff, This Manual Is For You

As the plaintiff in a major victory in federal court, Brian Vukadinovich has learned enough to write a manual for the pro se plaintiff. This short but comprehensive manual is filled with helpful tips on the entire process of bringing a lawsuit to trial, and winning it. Is it difficult to represent yourself in court? Yes. Is it doable with the right preparation? Absolutely!

10. Did You Come To Appease Or To Conquer? The 5 Types Of Pro Se Litigants

The way we approach litigation says a lot about our odds in court. If our approach is not ideal, the good news is that we can change. Yes, there are types of pro se litigants, defined by skill, knowledge, emotion, and personality. Discover your type to identify and address your weaknesses and boost your chances of success. In other words, come to conquer, not to appease.


Top 3 Posts About Strategy

This award goes to the posts that focused on helping pro se litigants think strategically about their cases.

1. How To Use Elements To Prove Your Case Or Defend Yourself

Though rarely discussed, the elements of a claim or defense are the most important building blocks of a case. They’re the engine in a train, the heat in boiling water, the lemons in lemonade, the zip in a zipper! In litigation, elements are everything that make up a case. Ignore them at your peril. Elements are those things that must be proven in order for you to state a cause of action as a plaintiff or assert defenses as a defendant. Elements are similar to ingredients. If you’re making lemonade, and you forget the lemons, it’s not lemonade. If you leave out water, you’ll just get a bunch of squished lemons–not lemonade. Same thing with elements. For your claim or defense to exist, every required element must be present. One cannot be missing.

2. 4 Acceptable Ways To Respond To A Complaint

How do you respond to a complaint? You can choose fear-, or anger-driven responses, like crying or cursing the plaintiff. Or, you can do what so many others who cannot afford a lawyer do. Nothing. That will get you out of the case quickly. Is that what you want? Luckily, there are multiple good ways to respond to a complaint. Using four people in four different states with the same problem, we’ll explore four acceptable first responses to a complaint.

3. When You Understand Motions And Pleadings You Can Escape Dull Forms and Take Over Your Case

The vast majority of civil pro se litigants don’t write their own motions and pleadings. They use pre-printed forms instead. Forms are easy to understand and quick to complete. They speed up the judicial process. With forms, clerks spend less time explaining rules. Judges can review information at a glance. Pro se litigants can take shortcuts by using forms. Complete the required sections, and you’re done. Sometimes all you need to do is sign! While litigation documents are more difficult to produce than forms, they give you more control of your case strategy.


Most Researched Post

This award is based on usefulness and the amount of research that went into a blog post.

The Affirmative Defenses of Contributory and Comparative Negligence

If you’re a defendant and the plaintiff has survived a motion to dismiss, your affirmative defenses are your next best chance to prevail. Affirmative defenses are much like claims in that the person asserting them must prove that all the required elements are present. Still, if you have any chance of saying, “The plaintiff was wrong too”, take it. And there are no better plaintiff-or-someone-else-was-wrong-too affirmative defenses than contributory and comparative negligence.

Runner Up: Do You Live In A Judicial Or Non-Judicial Foreclosure State?

There must be a formal process for turning over a home from a borrower to a lender. Though foreclosures in non-judicial states may be more difficult for self-represented litigants, you can have your day in court no matter where you live. Your job is to figure out what the process is in your state and throw a monkey wrench into it.


Best Post Overall

Of all the blog posts we’ve written in 2019, this is the one you should’ve read. Cases are won and lost on the degree to which a litigant understands the requirements for a claim or affirmative defense. A well-researched post, the winner below defines what elements are, why you need them, how to use them, and where to find them to support your claim or affirmative defenses.

How To Use Elements To Prove Your Case Or Defend Yourself

Though rarely discussed, the elements of a claim or defense are the most important building blocks of a case. They’re the engine in a train, the heat in boiling water, the lemons in lemonade, the zip in a zipper! In litigation, elements are everything that make up a case. Ignore them at your peril. Elements are those things that must be proven in order for you to state a cause of action as a plaintiff or assert defenses as a defendant. Elements are similar to ingredients. If you’re making lemonade, and you forget the lemons, it’s not lemonade. If you leave out water, you’ll just get a bunch of squished lemons–not lemonade. Same thing with elements. For your claim or defense to exist, every required element must be present. One cannot be missing.

Runner Up: Acceptable Ways To Respond To A Complaint

How do you respond to a complaint? You can choose fear-, or anger-driven responses, like crying or cursing the plaintiff. Or, you can do what so many others who cannot afford a lawyer do. Nothing. That will get you out of the case quickly. Is that what you want? Luckily, there are multiple good ways to respond to a complaint. Using four people in four different states with the same problem, we’ll explore four acceptable first responses to a complaint.

Since you asked, yes, 2019 was a successful blogging year for us. Thank you for your support of our blog. The top posts reflect the depth and breadth of issues pro se litigants face regularly. If you don’t see your favorite Courtroom5 post on this list, share yours with us in the comments below. Happy New Year.

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