Thursday, March 20, 2014

General advice for litigating without lawyers

 "I'm not very good at thinking things through. That's why this plan is such crap."
from a movie trailer for Bad Words

If you insist upon representing yourself in court without a lawyer, I can think of five important pieces of general advice:
  1. Except when actually present in the court room, all communications to the court must be in writing with a copy 'served' (generally mailed) to every party to the action or their lawyers.
  2. Give the court what it wants, when it wants it and in a form that is easily recognizable by real lawyers and judges. If your piece of paper causes a judge to scratch his or her head, you're in trouble. In Kentucky courts, the Kentucky Rules of Civil Procedure is your friend. At least look at it.There is a rule for everything,
  3. Neatness counts. This is the 21st Century and there is no excuse for handwritten motions or pleadings. Nobody wants to struggle with reading your penmanship, so use a word processor. Again, there is a rule for everything. See: Rules for Legal Greenhorns – A Kentucky Case Caption
  4. Electronic court filing is for professional attorneys only. Non-lawyers have to do it the old fashioned way on printed pieces of paper.
  5. Understand the essential legal points and stick to them. No story telling. Being sued and called into court is not anything like being called into the school principal's office. I'm sure you have a really good excuse for doing what you did, but it is generally not important. If you didn't pay your credit card debt, for example, the fact that you needed the money to buy insulin for your diabetic mother doesn't matter much in a courtroom.If you say, "I did not pay because . . . . ", the only message that matters is the "I did not pay" part.

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