Pro se is Latin for ‘for oneself’ thus literally meaning ‘on behalf of oneself’. Unlike criminal cases where the government appoints legal representation for those who can’t afford a lawyer, parties in civil cases don’t have that privilege. Thus, if you go pro se, be prepared to see it to completion.
You’ve struggled with proper wording and formatting of your motion, and you think you’ve done well. You go to the courthouse or online and file your motion. Unaware that there’s more to do, you simply stop there. You wait for an answer from your opponent or for the court to schedule a hearing. That’s not how things work in litigation. If your case is to move in the direction you desire, you must move it. That necessarily involves scheduling hearings on your motions.
There’s no need for panic when you’re served with a summary judgment motion. Usually the lawyer on the other side just wants to bully you into a bad settlement. You can bet one of these five approaches will give you solid grounds for opposing it.
When you’re arguing before a judge who’s in a hurry, risk being thrown out of court. Persistence pays. Take all the time you need to make your case, and don’t let a judge’s impatience dissuade you. You’re not a lawyer, and you don’t have to act like one.
Feeling vulnerable is something you never quite get used to as a pro se litigant, even though it happens every time you represent yourself in court. There are really only two ways to handle it. You overcompensate for your lack of confidence with a false bravado that ultimately drains your power. Or you acknowledge your vulnerability and develop an authentic confidence that makes you stronger in court.
Everybody hates litigation. You just want it to end quickly, especially when you’re the defendant. A good motion to dismiss can make that happen, but the threshold is very high. The typical strategy is to attack the sufficiency of a complaint, to show that a required fact has not been alleged. If you focus solely on what’s contained within the four corners of the complaint, you just might find that one weakness that gets the case dismissed.
If you don’t prepare for your day in court, you’re preparing for an ambush. Opposing lawyers want to leapfrog over any issues favorable to you and get a quick win. The judge also wants a quick resolution of the case and will take any shortcuts to get you off the docket. Expect them both to lay traps for a naive pro se litigant.
Having learned the hard way how to prepare for a hearing, here’s my list of do’s.
Picture this: Two pro se litigants — let’s call them Able and May — were sued for foreclosure by JPMorgan Chase Bank. (Names have been changed to protect privacy.) Able and May attempted to depose a bank vice president who had verified a mortgage assignment before it was actually created, but the bank didn’t like that […]