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Can I read a letter to the judge instead of trying to tell him the story? Will I lose credibility?

Portland, OR |

I am going to small claims court and I don't want to ramble on. Can I write a letter and read it to the judge with all the facts that are in my case. Do you think the judge will take me less serious if I do that? Any advice would help.

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Attorney answers 3


The formal rules of evidence do not apply in small claims. Instead, the rules are relaxed. The judge will probably let you read your story but don't be surprised if you need to do it from memory. Lots of people get nervous before court, it's normal. Try practicing your delivery a few times in front of a mirror before you go to court so you can remember the important details.

This is not legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. This is for education and informational purposes only. It is always recommended that you contact an attorney with any concerns as each individual case is unique.


Reading a prepared letter does not make for an effective case presention


The letter itself would not be admissible as evidence. But you could use notes to refresh your recollection of events. Many attorneys present arguments in court with the aid of notes. (Personally, I was always a fan of the great classicist C.D.C. Reeve. He purportedly would prepare for a lecture by bringing a 3x5 card that said "Talk about Aristotle." Good attorneys, I believe, can do that - become familiar enough with a case that they can ad lib their arguments. But even still, we'll usually prepare a bit in advance.)

The point is, you should be prepared for the judge - or the opposing side - to ask you questions about what happened; you mustn't be wholly dependent on your script. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the events that occurred and your theory of the case.

Please read the following notice: <br> <br> Jay Bodzin is licensed to practice law in the State of Oregon and the Federal District of Oregon, and cannot give advice about the laws of other jurisdictions. All comments on this site are intended for informational purposes only, and do not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. No posts or comments on this site are in any way confidential. Each case is unique. You are advised to have counsel at all stages of any legal proceeding, and to speak with your own lawyer in private to get advice about your specific situation. <br> <br> Jay Bodzin, Northwest Law Office, 2075 SW First Avenue, Suite 2J, Portland, OR 97201 | Telephone: 503-227-0965 | Facsimile: 503-345-0926 | Email: | Online: