Going Pro Se - What You Need To Know About Self Representation

Written by Dennis Gac, Author of Fathers Rights Protection System

You must educate yourself when representing yourself, Pro Se. This is one of the purposes of the NATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF FATHERS RIGHTS. Going Pro Se also results in an education that will help you work more effectively with lawyers. You will learn how to do much of the leg work for them and expedite your case. It is important to note that the position of NBFR is to help fathers and not to "bad mouth" lawyers. NBFR fully recognizes that there are many good, pro father, lawyers.

  1. Is it Legal? Generally, lawyers don't like it when Fathers go Pro Se and sometimes lie about it, telling clients it's against the law to go pro se. However, under the American Constitution, everyone has the right to litigate by himself in all civil and criminal cases.
  2. You are at an ADVANTAGE! No lawyer can know the facts of his clients' cases as well as the clients. You are the "expert" in your case. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
  3. Getting on the Judge's "good side". Often an attorney is caught up in pleasing the judge so that he'll look good during the next case that is brought before the same judge. The Pro Se, on the other hand, is only concerned about his case; therefore, it's "all on the line" now!
  4. Do I need to know the rules just like an attorney? 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 a pro se litigant.
  5. Will I be treated prejudicially? The better prepared you are, the better you will be treated by the court. This is not to say that you will not be treated prejudicially. It is saying that if you want to gain the respect of the court, BE PREPARED!
  6. Is it expensive? Pro se is relatively inexpensive and avoids astronomical attorney fees.
  7. Can I still use a lawyer if I'm Pro Se? Even if it does not make economic sense for you to turn your entire case over to an attorney, you may want to hire one on an hourly basis as a legal coach, to give you occasional advice. Your legal coach may simplify your legal research, suggest evidence you should look for to prove your legal claims, explain a confusing rule of evidence, inform you of time deadlines, provide help with courtroom procedures that are peculiar to your local court system or suggest ways of making your arguments more persuasive.
  8. Can I hire an attorney and still represent myself? YES, ABSOLUTELY! You may want to consider going Co-Counsel. i.e. You are representing yourself with his guidance. You both must agree on how your case should proceed. Remember he can often see things in a completely objective manner; while you cannot. Follow his guidance, somewhat; but the ultimate decision should be yours.
  9. Are there advantages in not being involved at every stage of the case, as a Pro Se? There can be. If you're working co-counsel, you can play "good-cop"--"bad-cop" so to speak. In this manner and at various stages, private negotiations can be more effective. You may prefer to confer privately with your lawyer in matters of strategy or confidence and may prefer private interviews with the judge for the same reason. You can speak with greater candor when your spouse is not present. The greater your feeling of confidence in the judge-that he understands your side of the case the more susceptible you will be to his persuasion. Be careful!

Read, study and become as educated as possible using the materials available through the NBFR and other sources. Learn how to prepare and present a persuasive case, and follow correct clerk's office and courtroom procedures, then insist upon fair treatment. By knowing and following court rules and courtroom techniques you can often earn the respect of the judge and the others who work in the courtroom, and as a result you may well find that they will go out of their way to help you.

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