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Eli Gomez
Eli Gomez

Represent Yourself In Court: How To Prepare And...

Whatever the reason, you have the right to represent yourself, to be your own lawyer in all cases in California. But just because you can represent yourself does not mean you should. It is very important that you learn about what is at stake in your case, and what you will be expected to do and know in order to handle it on your own.

Represent Yourself in Court: How to Prepare and...

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Some cases are simple and straightforward. Others are complex and difficult. You need to consider the complexities and specific issues involved in your case and what is at stake for you when deciding whether to go ahead without a lawyer. If you find, as your case proceeds, that representing yourself is too difficult, you may have the option at that time to hire a lawyer to represent you.

How hard it will be to represent yourself depends on your individual case. Many people have successfully represented themselves. Others have gone to court and found that their case was more complicated or that the court process was more difficult than they expected.

In some circumstances, it may be possible for you to hire a lawyer to handle only part of your case. In a few of the courts, lawyers are permitted to provide "limited assistance representation." Limited assistance representation means that the client and the lawyer have agreed that the lawyer will perform specific tasks on the case, but the client will be responsible for other tasks. For example, the client and the lawyer may agree that the lawyer will provide legal advice on one or more issues, or will prepare or review certain documents - but that the lawyer will not go to court or assist the client in other ways. The client and lawyer also may agree that the lawyer will appear in court for one or more events, but not for the whole case.

The decision to represent yourself in court is an important one. When making this decision you must be aware of the responsibilities you are undertaking. The following are the basic responsibilities of a self-represented litigant.

Read this six-act play to get an idea of what your day in court might be like. Learn about the roles of the participants and the steps before and during the trial. Reading this carefully will help you represent yourself by providing information on preparing and presenting your case.

The court is a very traditional and polite place where a certain demeanor (way of acting) is expected. When you are representing yourself, you are trying to persuade a judge or court commissioner that you are right. You must act and speak in a way that helps you with your case. Review these general tips for representing yourself.

Although you have the right to represent yourself in court, there are risks in self representation. Persons not trained as lawyers often do not have or know how to find all of the information they need to effectively present their case; they are typically unfamiliar with court procedures and legal requirements; and they are often uninformed about the meaning and implications of controlling legal authority. We highly recommend that you consult with an attorney about your legal problems or case. In this section you will find:

This book provides the information you need to prepare for trial and represent yourself in court. It explains rules and techniques for preparing and trying a civil case, including how to handle a case in family court or bankruptcy court. It does not cover criminal cases.

This book is designed both to increase your overall understanding of the litigation process and to provide detailed advice about each stage of trial. Unless you are already in the midst of trial and need to refer to a particular chapter immediately, begin preparing to represent yourself by reading through the book as a whole. As you become familiar with the litigation process, you will understand the significance of procedures and techniques that may initially seem peculiar or unnecessary.

CAUTION You must follow court rules. Even though you are not a lawyer, judges will expect you to know and follow all court rules. If you miss a deadline, use the wrong kind of paper, or violate some other rule, you will suffer the consequences even though you are representing yourself.

The Indiana Supreme Court recommends against your attempting to proceed in court without the representation of a lawyer. The Court also recognizes the fact that in some instances people choose not to hire an attorney or cannot afford to hire one. Representing yourself in court should not be taken lightly, and there are many instances in which hiring an attorney is a good idea. In fact, we suggest that you talk with an attorney prior to submitting forms or petitions to a court to achieve the best result possible.

In Indiana, the Courts are open to each and every person. Although there is no requirement that a person have a lawyer to go to Court, you are encouraged to see a lawyer to make sure you know your rights and all your legal options and to get the best result possible in your case. If you represent yourself, you must be prepared. Get a checklist of things to do before your court date and on the day of your court date.

Be courteous and respectful. Be courteous and respectful to everyone: the judge, jury (if there is a jury), the other party, and attorneys (if they are represented). Wait for your turn to speak. Do not interrupt the judge or the other party. The judge wants to hear from each party and all parties will be allowed to present their side of the case. You will be given the chance to respond to what the other party says, or you may politely ask to respond to the last comments. Do not interrupt others in court: the judge will stop you and instruct you to wait your turn. Please turn your cell phone off or on silent.

Be prepared. You may want to contact an attorney before deciding to represent yourself. You should understand the impact and consequences of the court action. Before your court date, determine what things you need to prove or defend your case. Bring any documents, photographs, receipts, witnesses, etc. that will help prove your claim or defend a claim against you.

Legal AdviceClerk's Office employees cannot provide you with legal advice. Please follow this link to see what our office can do for you.Representing YourselfIf you choose to represent yourself, then you must also follow the same statutes and Maryland Rules for your type of case that an attorney must follow. Except for in certain family law matters (see Domestic), there are not many forms available for use in circuit court by self represented parties. Therefore, in most instances, the original petition or complaint, any motion documents, or pleadings would have to be prepared by you, following the law, and generally without the benefit of a form.Evaluate your situation and your ability to proceed in representing yourself by reading the information and taking the quiz provided by the People's Law Library.Preparing Your CaseIf you choose to represent yourself, you must be able to clearly put in writing what relief you want the court to provide to you. Helpful information about preparing a case can be found at the People's Law Library.REQUIRED: Certificates of ServiceExcept for the original complaint (which must be served on the other side by either the Sheriff, a private process server, or certified mail), every paper, pleading or motion must include a certificate of service where you state that you have served a copy of the paper, pleading, or motion on the other side. The certificate of service should appear at the end of the paper or as a separate document attached to the paper. Please see the Sample Form.REQUIRED: Case Information Sheets-Filing New Cases and AnswersWhen filing a civil or family law case or when answering a complaint as the defendant in a civil or family law matter, you are required to complete a case information sheet. Information on these forms is used to determine the case track with respect to court time and helps in scheduling cases. Case information sheets can be found at the following links:Domestic Case Information SheetNon-Domestic Case Information SheetSpoken Language InterpreterRequests for interpreter should be submitted to the court no less than thirty (30) days before the proceeding for which the interpreter is requested.Requests for Accommodation by Persons with DisabilitiesRequests for accommodation should be submitted to the court not less than thirty (30) days before the proceeding for which the accommodation is requested.Appealing a DecisionPlease see the People's Law Library website for information regarding appeals.Civil Appeal Information Report- within 10 calendar days of filing an appeal, the appellant (the person filing the appeal) must deliver, by mail or in person, a complete and signed form to the address listed above. A copy must also be served by mail or delivery to all other parties or their attorneys. Failure to file the form on time or to correct any errors in the time specified may result in dismissal of the appeal. The non-appealing party may, but is not required to, file a responding Civil Appeal Information Report. This form is not required for cases regarding Child(ren) In Need of Assistance or Supervision, termination of parental rights, juvenile delinquency, criminal convictions, habeas corpus, coram nobis, post-conviction, violation of probation, appeals by prisoners relating to their confinement, and cases where an application for leave to appeal is allowed by law. Attach copies of all requested documents to the original and all copies of the form. Use extra pages if needed.ResourcesPeople's Law LibraryCivil Law AssistanceSelf-help centers and hotlines: 041b061a72


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