Robert Murdoch

Robert Murdoch

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Is it OK to Represent Yourself in Court?


Last month I talked about the issue in terms of “Can you Represent Yourself?”  In response, I got some response in the form of questions, that leaned more toward the question of “Is OK to represent myself?”
It was actually a little disturbing to read some of the questions, because they suggested that people were intimidated by the judicial and legal system, and somehow felt that by venturing into courthouses, they were somehow trespassing on sacred ground.
I guess, upon reflection, that it would be easy to get such a feeling. I never gave it much thought. After thirty-five years of wandering in and out of courthouses and courtrooms, it just feels like that’s where everybody was welcomed. I can see that for the person not familiar, it could be intimidating. After all there are all these huge, impressive buildings. Stone-faced and sometimes outright rude security people greet you.
No that’s not the right term. They confront you. A sad testimonial to what our society has become – but that’s another matter for a different time and place.
Back to the courthouse.  Once you get past security you have to deal with clerks and officials, usually behind glassed in enclosures with a tiny slot to speak through, or even a microphone.
Then there are those self-important lawyers running around as though the clock was constantly ticking down to zero. They certainly make you feel that they own the place and anyone else is superfluous. 
Yeah, I suppose that could all be a little intimidating. Ok, now wipe that whole idea out of your mind!
Those big, huge buildings? They belong to YOU and everybody else. You have as much right to be there and conduct your business as any lawyer all dressed up and bustling about.
All those clerks and officials being rude and making you feel like you’re imposing?  Guess what? YOU and everybody else pay their salaries!! They work for you. They may from time to time need to be reminded of that, but it’s easy to do in a courteous but firm way. As for the glass enclosures – well even after thirty-five years of lawyering I have never figured out how that evolved. When I started practicing law, clerk’s office had long counters – you stood on one side, the staff on the other. If you had a question, or had to conduct business, it was easy and personable. Now it seems as though we’re all possessed of some communicable disease and have to be kept at bay. Nothing we can do about that but to remember that glass or not, these people work for us!!
Those lawyers running around looking like they own the place?  They don’t. They have to file the same papers, and go through the same steps that you do. Oh, they may do it more often. They may be familiar with the very clerk that has been rude to you. But that’s just because they’re there every day, and that’s their problem, not yours.
So there is no need to feel out of place. Those courthouses are yours and you have the same right to conduct business there as anyone else.
Do you have to know what to so. Sure. Laws, rules and regulations are there to make sure, among other things that things function smoothly and as relatively efficiently.
But as long as you do your homework, and are reasonably prepared, there is never any reason for you to feel that you are out of place, unwelcome, or somehow going where you should not be. If anyone in those big buildings suggests otherwise, feel free to let them know the definition of civil servant!

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