Away Thee, Attorney!

by Chris Markham. 0 Comments

Today, I’m going to go a bit against the grain. After years and years of telling you to get an attorney when you face any type of legal challenge, I have to say, recent events may prove this faulty. It would appear that if you’re sued, or if you want to sue, your absolute bestest cause of action is to go it alone. No need for those pesky attorneys and their overpriced legal bills – nosiree.
Because, as the economy increasingly goes to hell, people can’t afford attorneys. People can read, talk and, as we all know intimately, argue. Because of that, courts that for basically forever, encouraged people to obtain attorneys now realize attorneys cost far too much money. Thus, the rules of procedure long held dear to courts and lawyers are now becoming more and more irrelevant. Now there are rules for attorneys, and some semblance of guidelines for those representing themselves.
And if I could choose between one or the other, I would choose the arbitrary and capricious guidelines given to those representing themselves.
The fun pro se process begins when filing a complaint against someone. I have a whole bunch of “magic language” that has to appear in complaints and other court documents. Further, these filings need to comply with the various local and state rules set forth by the court. A pro se person? They can literally file this: “Chuck done me wrong and owes me 1.6 millron (sic) dollars.” That my friends is a legitimate pro se complaint in some jurisdictions, even though we don’t really know who Chuck is, what his relationship to the pro se person is and what exactly is a millron dollars. If I attempt to smack down that complaint for those reasons, I’m in deep trouble indeed.
Other preliminary matters are also susceptible to the pro se’s whims and desires. Discovery – questions, depositions and documents, can be responded to (if at all) by whether or not the pro se person wants to deal with them.
You see, as an attorney, I have all sorts of procedures I have to follow – from admitting evidence (and the rules are all pretty different from written documents, to photos to videos to voice recordings; I have to identify the document, ask questions about it, authenticate it by asking the person that drafted the document, took the picture, video, recording if they indeed drafted the document, took the picture, video, recording, etc.); to how I talk to witnesses – if the person is my witness, I have to ask them open-ended questions, such as “describe your relationship with X.” or “What happened with the house then?” For witnesses that aren’t my own, I can ask leading questions, such as “You don’t know x, do you.” or “You took the money, correct?”
People off the street are not bound to such requirements. Whether the witness is their own or of the opposing party, they can ask, apparently, whatever they want, however they want to ask it. As an attorney, if you really want to cheese off the court, object to form, hearsay, assumes facts not in evidence, against the pro se party. The court really loves it when you beat up someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.
Another advantage is that, as your own attorney, you don’t need to admit to anything. If I’m examining my own client, and all I get from them is a stream of “I don’t knows or “I don’t remembers, the judge is going to rip my head off. However, if you as your own client/attorney don’t remember anything, that works. You don’t need to know anything or know how to read. Whatever you say, the court is going to go along with it as though it’s gospel.
I’m sure you’ve heard the terms “opening statement” and “closing argument.” These two soliloquies occur at the beginning of trial and at the end of trial, respectively. Believe it or not, there is a pretty big difference between the two – an opening is what you intend to prove at trial; the closing is your argument as to why the court should find in your favor. As a pro se litigant, you can say whatever you want as an opening or as a closing. Statements, argumentative didactics, introduce documents and facts not in evidence – whatever.
So the next time you’re sued (or you want to sue), go it alone. The deck (and rules) are stacked in your favor.

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