How often have you seen a post that starts like this on some social media forum? People trying to find a some kind of fill in the blank form to accomplish something in a case they are involved in.
The answer is “You can’t!”
One of the most common misconceptions people seem to have about representing themselves in court is that it is just matter of finding a form somewhere online. And they should not be faulted because most people’s exposure to the court system is with minor or routine issues like traffic court, family court, etc. These courts, dealing with high volumes of cases have often developed a system of forms to be used. It helps speed things along. But the same is not true of courts of general jurisdiction.
What is a court of general jurisdiction?
It is a court usually designated in a state’s constitution that handles any case beyond a certain amount in controversy that may be reserved for small claims, magistrate or justice courts, with no upper limit. These are the courts that, except for certain issues assigned to specific courts (for example family court) can handle any case that may arise. Courts of general jurisdiction for the most part do not have fill in the blank forms (California is an exception) and anything that you submit to the court is for the most part prepared from scratch. Courts of general jurisdiction require you to follow specific rules, and failure to do so, even for pro se litigants, can result in a case being thrown out, or for defendants, the other side winning automatically.
At Be Your Own Lawyer we are big fans of people representing themselves. But it is essential that you understand that representing yourself in court takes a lot of work and it takes a lot of time. You have to familiarize yourself with a lot of things such as:
– the law that applies to your case
– the statewide court rules in your state
– the rules specific to the court that you are in (local rules)
If you’re willing to do the work and take the time to research these things, you will be fine representing yourself.
If, on the other hand, you are under the misguided impression that you can just fill out some forms, then waltz into court and tell your story to the judge, please don’t try to be pro se…. you will be road kill!!