There are many arguments for why one should never represent themselves in court – even if he or she is a licensed attorney. It’s referred to as “pro se” litigation, and it’s a legal term that means “on one’s behalf.” It’s generally not required for civil litigants (or even criminal defendants) to hire an attorney to represent them. That’s because most people don’t have the knowledge it takes to adequately represent themselves, and even if they do, they lack the experience. Beyond that, most people are too close to their own case to be objective.
When you’re dealing with something as serious as the foreclosure of your home or debt defense against a large credit card company, it’s generally unwise to go it alone. That said, it is your right. But understand that you will likely face a legal system that will be harsh and unforgiving – and maybe even unfair – to pro se litigants.
Take, for instance, the recent resignation of long-time federal judge Richard Posner. Posner was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit by President Ronald Reagan, and has served in that capacity ever since. He abruptly resigned in September, and when asked why, he told The New York Times he, “Awoke from a slumber of 35 years” in which he came to the realization that people without attorneys are mistreated by the legal system. He wanted to act on it. However, the 11 other judges in the circuit refused his idea for how to address it.
He explained that many pro se litigants often filed handwritten appeals and while their grievances were real, the system often treated them very little patience, often dismissing their appeals on technical issues or errors.
Specifically in the Seventh Circuit, pro se appeals were reviewed by staff lawyers rather than judges. The judges simply convened later and almost always rubber-stamped the recommendations of the staff attorneys, without really bothering to closely review the contents, Posner said. He wanted to review the staff memos prior to their submission to the panel of judges. He would sit down with the staff attorneys, make editorial suggestions or commands that might be necessary and, just maybe, give pro se litigants more of a fighting chance. The director of the staff attorney program was supportive – but not his judicial colleagues. All 11 of them refused to sign onto the program.
One of his final opinions (and he’s written more than 3,300 of them in his career) involved a pro se litigant, a prisoner suing the U.S. government after a serious injury while incarcerated. The prisoner’s appeal was dismissed on technical grounds. Posner road that he badly needs an attorney, though unlike in the civil justice system, they aren’t a guarantee or a right. That’s why legal inequality often goes hand-in-hand with income inequality.
It may be very difficult for a pro se litigant facing a Miami foreclosure to get past a system stacked against them without an attorney. Our Miami foreclosure lawyers offer free initial consultations, reasonable rates and understand many of our clients are grappling with financial difficulties, and work to identify possible solutions.
If you’re battling debt collection in Miami or the surrounding areas contact Jacobs|Keeley for a confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call (305) 358-7991. Also, don’t miss Miami Foreclosure Attorney Bruce Jacobs on 880AM/the Biz, every Wednesday at 5 p.m. on “Debt Warriors with Bruce Jacobs and Court Keeley,” discussing foreclosure topics that matter to YOU.
The ‘Very Ugly’ Pro Se Case That Put Posner Over The Edge, Sept. 12, 2017, By Erin Coe, Law360
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