If asked, most pro se litigants would probably say that a legal argument before a judge is an intimidating, confusing pain in the butt. Others might call it powerful and rewarding. Nonetheless, a legal argument must be endured if you’re to save your house, get custody of your children, and so on. It should be crafted to persuade a judge to rule in your favor.
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.
If you had the right tools to succeed in court on your own, you’d file the right documents at the right time, effectively argue your case, and cite appropriate laws. You’d respect but not cower to judges and lawyers, have knowledge and a strategy to implement, use terms like prima facie, subject matter jurisdiction, and res judicata properly, take charge of your case, and fight with confidence.
Your response is due in two days. How long will you stare at that blank page? Writer’s block hits pro se litigants more often than not. There’s anxiety about the case, intimidation from opposing lawyers and fear of presenting your argument at the hearing, all combined with the pressure of a deadline. It’s a wonder we ever get anything filed. Here’s a quick and dirty trick to get past writer’s block when you’re drafting a legal document without legal training.
Google “pro se litigant” and you’ll see lots of articles for lawyers and judges on how to handle us, but very little on actually becoming an effective pro se litigant. That’s a shame, because civil court dockets these days are filled with cases involving only one lawyer, or none at all. Here’s what being effective looks like, and how to get there.