Unless you are involved in a small claims dispute or going against another person who is unrepresented, defending yourself in court is a very difficult and risky decision. Most people who represent themselves in court, particularly when they go against an attorney, do not win their case. If you have no choice but to represent yourself, you must prepare your case, familiarize yourself with court procedures, present evidence and witness at trial and file court motions. You have to know calmly present the facts and not be whistleblower.
You have two choices.
You can either: write a letter to the court and offer your side of the story. Include the information from the “caption” in your letter. The caption is the top of the Complaint form and it includes the names of the parties and the number assigned to your case by the court.
Fill in the Notice to Defend section on the bottom half of the Summons and return it to the court.
Understand the Legal Names for Parties Involved in a Case
You must learn all of the legal names of the participants in a trial. The judge or opposing attorney will refer to people by these names. Pro Se litigants are individuals who are a named party in the civil lawsuit or criminal case but are not represented by an attorney. The plaintiff is a person who files a civil lawsuit (a case for money damages) against another person or business. The prosecutor is the attorney that represents the state in a criminal case.
Conduct Legal Research
In order to defend yourself in court, you must understand the legal claims or charges against you and prepare your legal defense. This requires that you research the law related to your case and strategize on how best to defend yourself based on the legal claims against you.
Making the Decision on Whether You Have Good Defense
If there is a contract involved, read it carefully. Go through it point by point for obligations imposed on you or the other side. If you are not sure what the words mean, look them up in the legal terms glossary.
Look for the key points in the plaintiff’s story. Can you dispute any of these? Look particularly at the parts of the story that show that you should be held liable (responsible).
Look for receipts, take pictures, find witnesses, or any other proof of what happened.
If you believe that the goods or services that you received were substandard, find an expert or other proof of what is an acceptable standard. You will need to do some research.
Read the law on your type of case.
Talk with a legal expert (an attorney) on the points you find confusing. You may want to consider:
Hiring an attorney for part of the case
Will your homeowners or auto insurance cover this and provide representation?
Consider what an outsider might think was fair. Based on your analysis, do you have a case?
If you owe some money, you may be able to negotiate a lesser amount. Count this as a victory.
If the dispute involves goods or services that you received, were they substandard? If you can show that the goods or services that you received were substandard, you may persuade the judge that you should not have to pay the full amount due.