If you’re a law student—or plan to go to law school—this book is a useful and easy-to follow guide to the basics of civil procedure and litigation, from initial pleadings and discovery to appeal. The knowledge of general court procedures and fluency with legal terminology that you will gain from reading this book will help you successfully transition to law school and enhance your understanding of assigned casebook readings.
This book 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. See “Civil and Criminal Cases,” below. You will learn how to figure out what evidence you need to present a legally solid case, whether you are a plaintiff or a defendant. Among other things, you will learn:
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If you print out the pro se complaints on a federal docket, you'll see a lot are hand written, filed for free, in forma pauperis, by indigent people who may have a case but are in no position to know or even to explain it to a lawyer. Many however are simply out of their minds. One I read a few years ago was prepared by a plaintiff who was suing her doctor, everyone in her family, the neighbors, the police, the hospital.... for conspiring to take over her mind with implanted devices she was sure were in control.
Pro se legal representation (/ˌproʊ ˈsiː/ or /ˌproʊ ˈseɪ/) comes from Latin, translating to "for oneself" and literally meaning "on behalf of themselves", which basically means advocating on one's own behalf before a court or other tribunal, rather than being represented by a lawyer. This may occur in any court proceeding, whether one is the defendant or plaintiff in civil cases, and when one is a defendant in criminal cases. Pro se is a Latin phrase meaning "for oneself" or "on one's own behalf". This status is sometimes known as propria persona (abbreviated to "pro per"). In England and Wales the comparable status is that of "litigant in person".
Rules of criminal or civil procedure govern the conduct of a lawsuit in the common law adversarial system of dispute resolution. Procedural rules are constrained and informed by separate statutory laws, case laws, and constitutional provisions that define the rights of the parties to a lawsuit (see especially due process), though the rules generally reflect this legal context on their face. The details of the procedure differ greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and often from court to court even within the same jurisdiction. These rules of the particular procedures are very important for litigants to know, because the litigants are the ones who dictate the timing and progression of the lawsuit. Litigants are responsible to obtain the suited result and the timing of reaching this result. Failure to comply with the procedural rules may result in serious limitations that can affect the ability of one to present claims or defenses at any subsequent trial, or even promote the dismissal of the lawsuit altogether.