Representing yourself in court - Tips and What to Expect for the Pro Se Litigant
Key points- Courts make decisions based on logical reasoning, and credibility
- Distill the case to its essence and its essential facts
You must be able to tell the judge in 30 words or less
- Knowing to KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT as important if not more so than knowing what to say and when to say it
- DO NOT SPEAK UNLESS/UNTIL judge asks you question or says something like a??what do you have to say or what is this matter on for?
- Make your argument to the court a?? do not argue directly with opponent
If opponent interrupts, wait until he finishes, then you may politely ask the COURT, May I be permitted to finish? If opponent continues to interrupt, you may ask COURT politely I would appreciate if your honor would instruct my opponent to wait his turn
- Never make faces, huff and puff, or argue with your opponent
- Assume Court has NOT seen or read any filings
- ALWAYS - NEVER FORGET - Bring copies of pertinent filings with you for court and other side
Process Overview:A. At call of calendar, call case status Ready, Nominal, Conference.
B. When called to be heard, let Judge know why you are before the court.
C. Give the Judge ESSENCE of case. see above.
D. Let the Judge know why you should win.
E. Re-state relief or order you want from court.
A. Call a??READYa?? at call of calendarAt call of calendar, say loud enough for clerk to hear READY [DEFENDANT or PLAINTIFF] then sit down.
Conference and nominal are other status types but they typically should not be called by a pro se litigant (a person representing him or herself)
If you sued someone else, you are the plaintiff. If you have been sued, then you are the defendant.
After call of calendar, court will call cases 1 by 1 when yours called, walk up/stand in front of judge keep hands in front of you
DO NOT SPEAK UNLESS/UNTIL judge asks you question or says something like what do you have to say or what is this matter on for?
Opposing party or counsel may ask to speak with you outside courtroom to discuss you should do so and try to resolve without taking the courts time.
B. Make sure Judge knows why you are thereTHIS MATTER BEFORE YOU, YOUR HONOR, ON ...
[Then succinctly - in 10 words or less, if possible - what you want from the court]
Let the court know you have extra copies of filings if court needs
C. Give the Judge BRIEF overview of caseIN A NUTSHELL, YOUR HONOR ...
[Then succinctly - in 25 words or less, if possible - summarize the case]
D. Let the Judge know why you should prevailGive the court a reason to rule in your favor ...
The best reasons are based on some written authority - for example, Rule XX of the RI Rules of Civil Procedure - I have a copy here for the court - require ...
E. Close by restating relief or order you seek from courtYour Honor, [Plaintiff or Defendant] requests that the court order ...
F. RebuttalWait until the other side has finished then you may say something like, May I be heard, your Honor?
If the Judge says yes, then you may address any points made by the other side that you feel need to be answered.
ConclusionIf you are honest, and willing to spend the time to find and study the court rules and statutes, you can get justice representing yourself in court.
Also, some community interest law firms, like LawyersCollaborative, offer Limited Engagements where for a fixed fee our Staff General Counsel will meet and coach you, direct you to authorities, and otherwise help you understand what to expect and how to most effectively represent yourself.
LawyersCollaborative Staff General Counsel