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Defending Yourself Pro Se from Debt Collectors
Author: Yourlegallegup

What Is Pro Se Representation? Pro se legal representation means representing yourself rather than hiring a lawyer to do it for you. You have the right to do that in essentially any court proceeding, whether as defendant or plaintiff, and whether the matter is civil (for money) or criminal. Pro se is a Latin phrase meaning "for oneself," and you will sometimes see it called propria persona (abbreviated to "pro per"). In England and Wales, the comparable status is called “litigant in person.” Pro Se Representation is not Rare Although many people fear the thought of representing themselves in court, pro se representation is not rare. According to National Center on State Courts in 1991-92 71% of domestic relations (family law) cases had at least one unrepresented party, and in 18% of the cases both parties were pro se. It is a growing trend in debt collection law as well as family law and other matters. The Right Is Long Established The right of self-representation has long been established in the United States. It predates even the ratification of the Constitution, as Section 35 of the Judiciary Act of 1789—enacted by the first Congress and signed by President Washington, states that, “in all the courts of the United States, the parties may plead and manage their own causes personally or by the assistance of counsel." Most states have a similar constitution provision. Some Courts Favor Pro Se Litigants, but Most Do Not The California rules of Civil Procedure explicitly express a preference for resolution of every case on the merits, even if resolution requires excusing inadvertence by a pro se litigant that would otherwise result in a dismissal. The Judicial Council justifies this rule with the argument that "Judges are charged with ascertaining the truth, not just playing referee.” And the Council suggests "the court should take whatever measures may be reasonable and necessary to insure a fair trial." Although most states and the federal courts share this bias in favor of hearing courts on “their merits,” (based on what is actually fair), pro se litigants cannot rely on any special treatment. Some courts explicitly will not extend favorable treatment to non-professional litigants. You Probably Don't Need Help from the Court They may not need any extra help. According to Erica J. Hashimoto, an assistant professor at the Georgia School of Law, criminal defendants are “not necessarily ill-served” by the decision to represent themselves. In state court, pro se defendants charged with felonies probably fared much better than represented defendants. Of the 234 pro se defendants studied by Ms. Hashimoto, “just under 50 percent of them were convicted on any charge…. For represented state court defendants, by contrast, a total of 75 percent were convicted of some charge.” And just 26 percent of the pro se defendants ended up with felony convictions, whereas 63 percent of represented defendants in Ms. Hashimoto's study did. In federal court…the acquittal rate for pro se defendants is virtually identical to the acquittal rate for represented defendants. Pro Se Representation in Debt Collection Cases Defendants in debt collection cases might not need any extra help, either. They have some significant economic advantages in conducting their cases. They also have fewer of the disadvantages that many other types of cases have. This may simply be because debt collection cases tend to be document-intensive rather than witness-intensive. In the somewhat unusual case which actually goes to trial, the court is confronted with basic evidentiary questions: can the debt collector produce enough evidence? And is it “admissible” in court for the court's consideration? Little finesse is required. This basic legal simplicity, the fact that debt defendants were obviously brought before the court against their wishes, and the general economic difference between typical debt defendants and plaintiffs often seem to create a favorable impression on the judges. To see why your chances of winning a debt law case are so good, take a look at: Why You Can Fight Debt Collectors and Win.

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