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Ten common mistakes made by pro-se parties

The ten most common mistakes made by pro-se parties involved in California and Federal litigation are the topic of this article. The term pro-se is also known as in propria persona, in pro per, or more recently as a self-represented party.

The author of this blog post has worked in California and Federal litigation since 1995 and has seen these mistakes again and again with individuals representing themselves in Court.

The first common mistake is relying on what someone else tells them without checking it out thoroughly.  For instance asking someone what a particular code section says and relying on what that person tells them without verifying it by reading the entire code section.  Examples include assuming that they can afford to wait to file a motion to vacate a default judgment because “everyone knows you have six months in California”.

The second common mistake is copying and pasting a citation from a case they found online somewhere on the assumption they can rely on what that particular case is supposed to say without reading the entire case thoroughly. This is a huge mistake.

The third common mistake is focusing on minutiae and ignoring more important procedural concerns such as deadlines to respond. Examples include failing to file a timely motion to compel responses to interrogatories because they are too busy researching securitization of credit card debt and now “know more than most attorneys”.

The fourth common mistake is attempting to use the legal system to “get back” at someone. This is another huge mistake.  Examples include filing a motion for change of venue in a California divorce case to a county that is farther away to the opposing party than the original venue was or filing an order to show cause for bifurcation of marital status when the trial date is a month or so away because they are sick of waiting.

The fifth common mistake is using boilerplate objections or objecting just because they do not want to answer the interrogatory, request for admission, or produce the document.  Big mistake!  You can get away with it sometimes but beware!  This mistake can also put you in between a “rock and a hard place” when you have to choose between amending your responses or facing the almost certain threat of sanctions.

The sixth common mistake is loading their legal brief or motion with unnecessary arguments and citations on the theory that “more is better.” Focusing on quantity instead of quality.

The seventh common mistake is letting the attorney for their opponent intimidate or bully them. Examples include stipulating to a judgment in an eviction case and then expecting to be able to appeal or vacate the judgment because the attorney for the landlord “made them sign it.”

The eighth common mistake is making irrelevant arguments in Court, or in their documents. Examples include making conclusory statements with no facts to support it such as their spouse is a jerk or crazy in a California divorce case.

The ninth common mistake is assuming that just because they want something the legal system has to give it to them. Examples include wanting an annulment of their marriage because “they have only been married a week”.

And the tenth common mistake is expecting the Judge to rule in their favor just because they are representing themselves.

To view over 300 sample legal documents for California and Federal litigation created and sold by the author use the link shown below.

View over 300 sample legal documents for sale

To view sample legal document packages for California and Federal litigation that are sold by the author use the link shown below.  Sample litigation document packages for sale

The author of this blog post, Stan Burman, is a freelance paralegal who has worked in California and Federal litigation since 1995.

If you enjoy this blog post, tell others about it. They can subscribe to the author’s weekly California legal newsletter by visiting the following link:  http://freeweeklylegalnewsletter.gr8.com/

Copyright 2013 Stan Burman. All rights reserved.


Please note that the author of this blog post, Stan Burman is NOT an attorney and as such is unable to provide any specific legal advice. The author is NOT engaged in providing any legal, financial, or other professional services, and any information contained in this blog post is NOT intended to constitute legal advice.

These materials and information contained in this blog post have been prepared by Stan Burman for informational purposes only and are not legal advice. Transmission of the information contained in this blog post is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, any business relationship between the author and any readers. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.


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