Monday, 7 June 2010

Pro Se Litigation

Q: Even a simple consultation with a Lawyer is expensive. Are there any alternatives?

A: Part 2

Section 5(2)(c)(ii) of the Constitution embeds the right to consult with and retain an adviser (i.e., an Attorney), but a person can still choose self-representation in court. Pro-Se is Latin for "For Self" and is the legal jargon for self-representation. "In Pro Per" is another term used, which is the abbreviation of "In Propria Persona" and means "in the person of yourself".

In a court of law every citizen has the right to represent himself, whether he is the plaintiff or defendant. This right is usually activated when (a)the person cannot afford a Lawyer, (b)the person refuses to spend money on a Lawyer or (c)the person believes that the case is simple enough to win without a Lawyer. While this is a more cost-effective way, there are a few things to consider:

1. You must know the law and the procedures
2. Careful preparation is necessary to avoid mistakes.
3. Use all the help available (peruse this blog or email me your question)
4. Law is all about case precedence, so study previous cases to strengthen your point. A Judge will not fight your case for you. However, from my experience, a judge will not allow a Pro-Se case to continue if it is believed that the person's section 5(2)(e) rights will be infringed by lack of knowledge.
5. Did you know that a citizen can view a trial at any time? I've observed many trials at the Hall of Justice, mostly drug related. If Judge Judy isn't enough, then by all means, make time to observe and learn from the cases at any of our Supreme Courts. Contact the Judiciary for a list of cases you can attend.

If after all of this you don't feel confident enough to represent yourself in court, my recommendation for an Attorney-at-Law in Trinidad and Tobago would be Mrs. Mindy Nicholas-Stewart. You won't have to spend your month's salary to retain her and after working with her a few years ago, I can personally say that she is VERY good.

Good Luck.

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