Handling Your Civil Court Case
Handling Your Civil Court Case
Paul Bergman (Professor, UCLA School of Law) gives expert video advice on: Is it sensible to appear in court without a lawyer?; How do I know if I have a good case?; If I want to sue someone, how do I know which court has jurisdiction over the case?
Is it sensible to appear in court without a lawyer?
It is sensible to appear in court without a lawyer if you know what you are doing, and you are willing to spend the time to know what to do. It is not sensible to appear in court without a lawyer if you are not willing to spend the time researching the law, and filing the papers. If your case is simple, if you don't need expert witnesses, it's basically oral testimony and documents that you have available, and a modest amount of money is at stake, then it often makes sense for people to represent themselves.
How do I know if I have a good case?
Evaluating whether you have a good case can be tricky. The issue that people have to remember is its not simply what you know happened, it's what you can prove happened. So, if an important witness who would support your claims has moved across the country, that may mean that although you have legally in the abstract a good case, you may not have a good case because you can't prove it. A good case also takes into account of, if you win will you be able to collect. Let's say you're suing for money. Will you be able to collect the money? Does the person you're suing have the resources and all to pay the judgement? If they are penniless or their assets are hidden, where you can't find them, then your case isn't a good one because you may just end up with a paper judgement that isn't worth anything in the real world. Then, of course, you should always think about what your story would be, what you and your witnesses would say and your adversary and what is your adversary likely to say. Can you convince a judge or jury to believe your side rather than their side. What is it that makes your case more believable? Of course, you have to know what the legal issues are. So, all of those are the aspects that go into evaluating whether you have a good case.
If I want to sue someone, how do I know which court has jurisdiction over the case?
Finding out which court is the right court to sue, can often be a difficult task in itself. Typically, wherever the action took place is the clue to which court to sue. For example, if there was a car accident, or a contract was signed, typically, the state in which that happened, would be the correct place to sue. However, sometimes you have a choice of courts. You might have a choice between a federal court and a state court. Even within a state court system, one type of court may have jurisdiction. For example, if it's a family law court, you would have to file the case in a family law court if it involves an issue involving family law and not in a court that handles automobile cases. So finding the right court can be tricky. Looking at the court rules that each legal system publishes is probably the best way to go about it.