Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Why judges are dismissing pro se litigants (aka people representing themselves)

The number of people representing themselves in Texas is skyrocketing.

Many cases are dismissed for many reasons.

Some of the reasons are:

1. No one shows up on trial date.  The judge announces the names from the bench.  If no one stands up, the case is dismissed.

2. People show up -- but don't have any paperwork filled out.  Judges in most counties don't give out paperwork.  The burden is on you to have your paperwork ready and properly filled out.

Remember - Judges cannot practice law once they become a judge.  Many will offer you "suggestions" and you need to listen carefully because they are truly trying to help you.  If you don't understand, ask the judge to repeat it and write it down.  Then call a lawyer and try to have the lawyer interpret what the judge said.

3.  The couple reconciles and no longer wants the case to go forward. Judges love to dismiss for this reason.

4. The people begin to argue with the judge or are rude to the Judge or the judge's staff.  This is never a good idea and I advise against being "rude" or "disrespectful" to a judge or any staff person.

5. The issue is truly too complex for the person to represent themselves in court.  The judge will often recommend that you hire an attorney.  This usually is a "hint" that the case is too complicated or the paperwork does not fit what you are trying to accomplish.

6. When the judge asks the parties to present their case at trial they just look at the judge or burst into tears.  It's your responsibility to know what to do.  The judge might try to help you but I recommend that you spend several days in the courtroom to figure out what attorneys do when there is a hearing or trial.

7. The person in front of the judge asks the judge to do something illegal or something that the judge cannot do.  Judges in Texas follow Texas law.  Texas law does not address EVERYTHING that could ever happen.

For example, there is no law regarding having a bedroom for each child or having a bed for each child.  The Texas Legislature writes the law and the judge merely interprets what the law says.

Or, a man own a paid for asset before marriage. The judge cannot give the property to the other spouse.

8. The person that filed the lawsuit shows up for trial but the other party was not properly served with notice of the lawsuit.  Or, the person has been served but the paperwork was not properly filled out or the time has not been long enough.  There are many "technical" time-lines that must be met or the judge cannot go forward.

I'm sure there are many more reasons but if you represent yourself in court be aware that the judge might try to help you but is limited by what he/she is allowed to do by Texas law.

I'm an attorney and I always hire another attorney to represent me in the courtroom.  Why? Because I'm personally involved and I might be too emotionally involved to do a thorough and professional job in front of the judge.

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