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Question about north carolina civil procedure. pro se answer and counterclaim method of service

Raleigh, NC |

in north carolina civil superior, as defendant i answered and counterclaimed. the procedure was not clear to me so i dropped it at the post office regular mail, no return receipt to plaintiff's attorney. was this proper? how do i know the receipt date if it was proper? if not proper, how do i remedy it? do i resend w/return receipt requested? and what is my time limit?

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Attorney answers 1


An answer is not considered timely filed UNTIL it is filed at the courthouse. You are required to attach a certificate of service to your answer and counterclaim. Mailing by regular mail is fine as long as you have filed it at the courthouse. You have 30 days from your receipt of the complaint by the sheriff to file. Make sure it is filed even if you are over the 30 days.

Filing things pro se (representing yourself) is very difficult. You are expected to know and follow the rules same as any other attorney. Had you checked the rules you would know about filing an answer. Don't think I'm being mean or rude. I'm not and I can appreciate the fact that people don't have money for a lawyer. Its just that I know what an uphill battle you are facing. Judges are very biased against pro se litigants - if for no other reason than the case will be messy which means that the judges have to work and think. They are not going to do that very often. It is too easy for them to dismiss what you have to say and find for the other side and allow you to appeal if you don't like it. And if you think superior court is bad, appeals court is even worse. Appeals are costly (I charge $7500 - $10,000 depending on the facts) and there are lots of rules with which you have to comply. And even if you make it over those hurdles, the success rate is something like 3%. It is very difficult to get a trial judge's decision or ruling overturned on appeal because you have to persuade at least 2 appeal judges that (a) the trial judge screwed up and (b) that the screwup was so bad as to entitle you to a new trial. Sounds easy but it isn't. For these reasons, appeals are out of reach for most people and unrealistic.

Really, if you want to best maximize your chances of success, you need a litigation lawyer.

Depending on what you pled in support of your answer and counterclaim, that may or may not call for any type of response. Assuming no responsive pleading is necessary, the parties next get to engage in discovery - they get to ask you written questions (called interrogatories), ask you to admit or deny certain facts, ask you to produce documents and possibly take depositions. You can do the same to them but you have to create your own discovery based on the facts of the case. Depending on what you answered and what arises in discovery, the plaintiff (the person/corporation/business suing you) will file either a motion for default (if your answer was not timely filed with the court), a motion for judgment on the pleadings (if you admitted whatever basis on which the plaintiff is seeking to have you held liable) or a motion for summary judgment (which says to the court that the basic facts on which the plaintiff's case is based are not in dispute and there is no need for a trial). You have to respond to whichever of these is filed and have to show why the motion should be denied.

Posting on a public message board is not a substitute for consulting an attorney. Nor is this intended to be an exhaustive list of things you need to know for litigation. My advice would be to get an attorney or at least pay an attorney for a 30 minute consult to review the complaint and your answer and point you in the right direction. If nothing else, many lawyers provide limited legal services and may be willing to assist you.

I do not go to court nor do I handle litigation. You need someone who actively practices in the county where the case is pending and who knows the judges well.