From AE: Pitfalls of going to court for Pro Se litigants

This post will be about some issues when you appear pro se and how to avoid those issues.

  1. If you are sick, you still have to appear on your court date. Court will still continue and this is always a great time to DWP (dismiss for want of prosecution) your case, or even worse, enter some horrible order against you. Under Supreme Court Rule 45 you can appear by phone and on zoom. Let the court know as soon as possible.
  2. Always have a court reporter if you can possibly afford one and get your transcripts promptly. Sorry to say, I am still hearing complaints that transcripts come back materially altered in Illinois and these complaints are recent, not a part of the past. As what happened at my ARDC trial, the court reporter promised she would not change the transcripts but she did just that and the ARDC still has not reinstated me nor apologized for there perfidy.
  3. If you file something in court, you have to have a Motion and Notice of Motion. Generally the court will set a briefing schedule. Replies are not required and not even encouraged unless you have something truly new to say about the cases, facts or the law. Otherwise, avoid them. Your Motion will explain exactly what you want and why you want it. It is best to cite the law and at least one case, but several cases would be better.
  4. If you do not have transcripts, your chances of winning on appeal are slim to none. Always get a court reporter. Write the Chief Judge and tell him you want the right to record and use Google Translate Speech to Text because you are indigent and cannot afford a court reporter
  5. Always appear in court if humanely possible and take notes, even if you have an attorney. If the attorney tells you you don’t have to appear or you should not appear, get a new attorney. Almost never should the attorney say that and they better have a very good reason (outstanding warrant or possible jail) but 99% of the time you should be coming to supervise your attorney to make sure they are doing their job.
  6. Sometimes your judge might not be present due to illness, an emergency or training. It is okay for a substitute judge to appear and issue valid orders. Your regular judge may still be involved by phone or otherwise on that day and that is okay. Judges can work together, in general.
  7. If you are not there and the judge issues an order you do not like or you think it is wrong, you have 30 days to vacate it for “good cause.” After that it is very difficult to vacate the order, even though the statute says up to 2 years. You would have to show diligence, new case law or evidence that could not possibly be obtained before that date, and when they say that standard, think of the word “impossible”. Probably 98% of motions to vacate filed after 30 days are denied. Judges do not like to do that. There are very few cases.
  8. Try your best to get an attorney to help you. Check out all the law clinics at every law school and look around for lists of legal clinics and pro bono legal services for the indigent.
  9. Even if you think your order is void or voidable, never delay in seeking to vacate it. The sooner you file a motion to vacate the better your chances of success in vacating it. Judges hate to vacate any order older than 30 days and they will come up with any excuse not to do that for you.

3 thoughts on “From AE: Pitfalls of going to court for Pro Se litigants

  1. Thanks for this good advice. I am currently suing a (very) large corporation as a Per Se. The VLC didn’t even bother to file an answer or a CMCS so I filed a Request for Default Entry of judgment. The court then accused ME of not serving the VLC properly and that I didn’t dismiss Does 1-10. So I’m filing a second Request for Default Entry and a Doe 1-10 Dismissal. I expect that this one will be turned down too. I’m playing a long game here. I expect this will go on for YEARS. Being per se is hard work! Apparently judges just do not like to rule against VLCs in favor of Per Se folks like me. I could be wrong but….

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