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. Continue reading