Category Archives: preparation

Table of Contents

Legal Procedure

Preparation

Pre-Trial

Discovery

Trial

    Appeal

    Fraud Upon the Court

    Corruption

      Organize Your Evidence

      Think about the evidence that could apply to your case, and then gather hard copies.  Then organize it.

      An Excel spreadsheet is an excellent way to organize your evidence.  I create an Excel file named Evidence-2018-05-11.  (2018-05-11 being the date you create the file.  If you always use yyyy-mm-dd as the date naming convention in your files, it will enable you to find documents chronologically and identify the most recent version.)  [Evidence-Sample-2018-05-11]

      Give consistent names to documents.  For example, always write “Letter to _____ about _____.”  “Letter from _________ about ______.” Email, Fax, etc., etc.  be consistent so you can sort your spreadsheet to find all evidence of specific types.

      Date each document.  If time of day is important, you should use yyyy-mm-dd-mm-ss.  When I don’t know the exact time, I guess or put 00-00 for minutes and seconds.

      Identify the Issue that the evidence applies to.

      Insert the filename.  Then you may wish to add a note as to the importance of the document.

      To get the filename, you need to put all of your evidence into a folder on your computer.  You will likely have some documents in digital format.  Find those, and put copies in your Evidence Folder.  You will need to rename these files.

      Then scan all paper documents, and give each document a proper filename.

      Your filenames should all be chronological.  This enables you to sort your Evidence Folder and your spreadsheet to get a history of the documents applicable to your case.  You must be consistent to find things easily.

      Your file names should start with yyyy-mm-dd-mm-ss-(what it is, such as letter)-brief description.  So, for example, a letter to Barbara dated April 6, 2013 about settlement would be: “2013-04-06-Letter-to-Barbara-settlement.xls”  If I wanted to have evidence identified by time of day, I would put “2013-04-06-00-00-Letter-to-Barbara-settlement.xls” as I don’t know the time of day she wrote the letter.

      Right-click on the filename in Windows Explorer as if you were renaming the file, and simply copy the filename.  Then paste it into the Filename filed on your spreadsheet.

      Scan the documents needed, and ensure that all evidence is properly named in your Evidence Folder.  As additional evidence is identified, add each document to your Evidence Folder in the same manner.  When you receive documents from the other side, add that evidence as well.

      Thinking long and hard about what evidence may exist is extremely important.  You need to prove your case.  It is also extremely worthwhile to gather evidence that proves the other side lies and cheats, when applicable.

      Identify people who may be witnesses to the issues in dispute.  Talk to them to see what they saw or heard.

      If the lawsuit is about a contract dispute, the contract itself is a critical piece of evidence.

      Communications between you and the other party may be evidence.

      Store the original copies of your evidence in a safe place.  And, as discussed above, scan your paper documents so you have digital copies.

      Draft Your Complaint or Your Answer

      To initiate your lawsuit, you must file a petition or a complaint.

      A petition or complaint (different states call them different things) is a short, plain statement sufficient to show that the plaintiff should be entitled to relief.  It sets out the facts according to the plaintiff and shows the relief requested.  It may express the plaintiff’s legal theories in support of the request for relief.

      A plaintiff must have a good faith basis for filing anything in court.  The court can sanction you if you file anything in bad faith.  You could be ordered to pay a lot of money to the court or the defendant, so be careful.  Make sure you have a valid claim.

      Many courts have forms you for pro se plaintiffs to adapt for their complaints.  There are also examples online.

      If you are the defendant, you must answer the complaint filed by the plaintiff within a specified period of time after it is served on you.  As to each allegation, you may admit it, deny it, or state that you lack sufficient information to respond.

      Read the complaint very carefully, and think carefully before admitting any allegations.

      Evaluate the Strengths and Weaknesses of Your Case

      Consider the strength of the evidence that you have.  Recognize that some evidence has greater value.  Focus on evidence needed to prove the elements of your claims.

      In addition, you should make an appraisal of evidence that the other side may have.  Think about the kind of evidence needed to support their arguments.

      Identify the Appropriate Court

      If you are the plaintiff, you must identify the appropriate court in which to file your lawsuit.

      Statutes (laws) limit the “jurisdiction” (power) that each court has.  Legal actions may be filed in state or federal courts.  The question of state or federal court will depend on several issues — the type of case, dollar amount sought in damages, and number and location of the parties.

      You must also determine the appropriate state court or federal court in which to file.

      As a general rule of thumb, you should file a case that involves state law in a state court.  State law cases normally include divorce, landlord-tenant matters, personal injury, and breach of contract cases.  State courts normally have the authority to hear lawsuits about events that took place within the state.

      Federal courts have jurisdiction in a more limited type of cases. Common federal claims include violations of copyright and trademark law, unfair competition claims, and discrimination claims.  Federal courts also hear cases in which the parties are located in different states IF the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.

      If you file your case in the wrong court, your case will be dismissed.  You can file your case again in the proper court.  But the statute of limitations must not have expired.  Study this issue carefully, and file your lawsuit long before the statute of limitations could be an issue.

      Once you have identified the appropriate court, you must identify the proper venue for the case.  Each state has a court in each county, but you must identify the right one.  An appropriate venue is one where an auto accident occurred, where a contract was executed or was to be completed, where the defendant does business or lives, or where other critical events occurred.

      If You Plan to File a Lawsuit, Make Sure You Have the Right To Do So

      If you plan to file a lawsuit, you need to first be sure that you have the right to do so.

      Many companies have mandatory arbitration clauses or mediation clauses in their contracts.  These contracts provide that you cannot sue the company.  You must resolve disputes through arbitration or mediation, which are out-of-court methods.

      Courts strongly favor arbitration and mediation clauses, and they routinely enforce them.

      You must also ensure that the statute of limitations has not expired on your proposed claim.  The statute of limitations are laws passed by state and federal legislatures to set the maximum time after an event when litigation may be initiated.

      You have already identified the statute or statutes that you will be suing about. Go to your favorite search engine, and search to find the statute of limitations for that particular law.  Type your state’s name and the law (e.g., breach of contract, trespass, harassment), and then type “statute of limitations.”  So, for example: “Florida breach of contract statute of limitations.”  One of the first-page search results will usually provide what you are looking for.  Here is the result of this search.

      If the event took place within the last year, you should be fine.  From my experience, two years or longer has been the norm.

      You only have a short period of time to file a lawsuit. The specific amount of time will depend on the kind of lawsuit you are bringing and the state you are bringing it in. This time limit is called the “statute of limitations.”

      Statutes of limitations start running from the time the alleged injury occurs.

      There are some exceptions to the start date for the statute of limitations period. For example, if the defendant hit you but an injury did not appear until later, then the statute begins to run from the date you became aware of the injury. This is known as the “discovery rule.”

      Always file suit as soon as possible in the appropriate court.

      Study the Law and Learn How to Conduct Legal Research

      One of the first things to do when you are representing yourself in court is to study the law that is applicable to your case.

      The Internet is your friend.  Search for (your state name) statutes.  For example, if you are in Georgia, the search would be “Georgia statutes.”  Find the search result that seems to provide a list of the Georgia statutes.  Then find the law (statute) or laws that apply to your case.  Study them.

      You need to identify the elements that you must prove or disprove in order to prevail in the litigation.  This will require another search, but it is best done in a case law database.

      Knowing the law is a starting point.  You will ultimately need case law to support your position.  You can try searching online, but it’s hard to find the cases that way.  It is infinitely better to search a database of case law.

      I use Versuslaw.  It is less than $20 a month, and it is a great tool.  When you use Boolean logic effectively, you can really pinpoint what you need to find.

      Versuslaw has a help page to explain Boolean logic if you are like most people and don’t know what the heck Boolean logic is, much less how to use it.  The basic Boolean logic functions are andornot.  If you want to search for disqualification and recusal, your search is (disqualification) or (recusal) because the search results will be the use of either word.  A list of cases will appear with a summary.  Click on the case for the full ruling.

      If you want cases where the words disqualification and recusal are both used, your search is (disqualification) and (recusal).  This will result in a list of cases in which disqualification and recusal were both used in the same decision.

      If you want cases about recusal where the recusal was not overruled, your search should be (recusal) and not (overruled). This will generate a list of cases where both the words recusal and overruled are not used.

      Find and Read the Rules of Civil Procedure and the Court’s Rules

      You have the right to represent yourself, but with that comes the obligation that you comply with the law and the rules.

      First, find and read the Rules of Civil Procedure for your state, if your case is in a state court.  If you are in federal court, read the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

      Then find and read the rules for your court. Every court has rules, and you must comply with those rules as well as the state’s rules of civil procedure.  Check the website for your court, or ask the Clerk of Court to indicate where you can find the rules for your court.

      You must comply with the Rules!

      In my experience, the opposing party and the judge broke many rules.  I tried to know the rules, and I tried to follow the rules to the letter.

      You should also be aware of the rules that attorneys and judges are SUPPOSED to comply with.  Review your state’s Rules of Professional Conduct.  These are published by your state Bar Association.

      Also, study the Code of Judicial Conduct.  These will vary by state, and there is a different Code of Judicial Conduct for federal courts.

      In my dealings, I found that the attorneys regularly violated a variety of provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct as did the judges.

       

      Establish a Support Network

      It’s smart to establish a support network.  There are people who can help you.

      Facebook is a great resource because there are Groups for just about every aspect of legal matters.  I suggest that you go on Facebook and search for words that are your area of interest.  For example: pro se, wrongful conviction, mother, father, custody, corruption, etc.  You will be able to communicate with people who are representing themselves in matters similar to yours.

      Try to identify others in your area who are representing themselves in court.  Help one another.

      Join the Lawless America group on Facebook, and join the Lawless America state group for the state where your legal matter is.  For example, if you are in Texas, simply search in Facebook for Lawless America Texas.  Most of the state pages are www.facebook.com/LawlessAmerica(state-name).

      If you have a friend or relative who is an attorney, ask if he or she could give you some help from time to time.