Need To Know About Representing Yourself
Your have a right to represent
yourself ( appear “pro se”) in any kind of legal case. You will be
expected to know and follow the rules just as lawyers are expected
to follow the rules. If you
do not follow the rules that apply in your case, the court may not
be allowed to give you what you want, even if it makes sense.
Before you decide to represent
yourself, ask yourself whether it wouldn’t be better use of your
time and money to consult with or hire an attorney who knows the law
and can give you advice about what to do, how to do it, and what
your chances are of getting what you want.
What you have seen on TV and in
the movies is not real. Even if it is called "real TV." You must
dress and behave appropriately.
Coming to court and asking a
judge or magistrate to make decisions about your life is one way to
resolve disputes; this is called litigation. However, this is not
the only way to resolve disputes. ADR is often less expensive and
less time-consuming, and it gives you more control over your life.
Sometimes the court will order you to try ADR (mediation and
arbitration are just two types) before you can litigate your case.
You and the other party know your
lives/children/the facts of your case better than anyone else. You
can be creative and flexible in making your own agreements; the
court can only do what the law allows. You and the other party will
be happier with agreements you make yourself, and therefore more
likely to comply with them than with decisions made for you by the
(back to top of
If you do decide to go to court,
filing your motion or petition is just the first step. In order to
get what you want from the court, you may need to schedule a hearing
or conference, make efforts to resolve the problem without the
court, and file additional documents.
You will need to fill out
paper work. You can get forms from the court (usually for a
small fee) or the Judicial Branch website ( www.courts.state.co.us ). Read all the court papers and instructions. There may be a fee
to file a motion or a petition.
WHEN YOU VISIT THE CLERK’S OFFICE
TO FILE YOUR PAPERWORK, REMEMBER:
- It is up to you to know what
- You can handwrite or type your
information, but your documents must be complete and legible. When
completing a multi-part form press firmly
- By law, the court staff cannot
fill out forms for you
- Some courts may have additional
filing requirements that may mean another trip to the courthouse
- Keep your composure; the court
staff is there to help you as much as they are allowed.
- The paperwork you file is your
only means of communicating with the court and the judge or
magistrate. Direct contact with the judge or magistrate is not
You will have to share.
You must give everyone in the case copies of everything you file
with the court. You must also submit a written form to the court
identifying when and how you did so. This is called a Certificate
of Mailing. You should keep a copy of everything you file with the
court. You will need to work with the other person, any attorneys,
and the court to schedule hearings and conferences, and give written
notice, so all can be present.
Being organized will help. What do you want? Why should you get what you want? The court
has limited time to hear any case and must adhere to a strict
schedule. If you do not make your points in the allotted time, you
will not get another chance.
Be prepared. Visit the
Justice Center ahead of time, if possible, so you are comfortable with
the location and setup. Get your documents and evidence prepared
and copied – one copy for yourself, one for the court, and one for
the opposing party. Subpoena your witnesses, if necessary, and
arrange for them to be at the right place at the right time. Make
notes of the questions you will want to ask the witnesses.
Arrive early, with everything
you need. Give yourself enough time for traffic and unexpected
events. If you are not there on time, your case may be dismissed,
you might lose, or it may be months before you have another chance
to tell the court what you want. Keep your paperwork in order and
have your copies with you when you come to court - they will not do
you any good in the car or on the kitchen counter.
Know your case number. Be
sure to have your case number available always; you will be asked
for it every time you contact the court. Court staff will not be
able to give you the help you need if you do not have your case
(back to top of
No one in the Justice Center is
allowed to give you legal advice, although court staff may be able
to answer questions about forms and rules. A video explaining how
to fill out paperwork is available for viewing at the Mesa County
Justice Center. Just ask at the front counter for the video. They
will instruct you on how to view it.
The Colorado Revised Statutes
(the laws) and court rules are available in print in the reference
section of any public library. The Judicial Branch website also has
a link to the online statutes and rules; (www.courts.state.co.us )
Certain behaviors are required
while you are in court. This behavior is either necessary to manage
cases or is considered respectful of the court.
If you have a cell phone or
pager with you, turn it off before entering the courtroom, and
before you begin a status conference of any kind.
Enter and leave the courtroom
quietly, so you do not disturb others.
Stand when the judge or
magistrate enters the courtroom, and when you speak to the judge or
Address the judge or magistrate
as “Your Honor”
You will be expected to treat
others in the court respectfully. It is respectful to address
others as “Mr.” or “Ms.” Or ma’am or sir. It is not respectful to
yell, curse, or cut someone off when they are speaking.
Speak clearly and slowly. Your
words are being recorded, either by a machine or a person. If you
mumble, speak too quickly, too softly, or answer by shaking or
nodding your head, the record will not be accurate.
Please do ask questions if you do
not understand something or are confused about what you are required
CHILDREN IN THE COURTROOM
Please do not bring your children to the
Justice Center unless the court has ordered them to be present.
Children do not belong in the courtroom, where they can see and
hear things that are hurtful, confusing, and inappropriate for
them. Besides, the Justice Center is a boring place for
(back to top
A WORD ABOUT DRESS
Appropriate dress is required in
the courtroom. You do not need to “dress up,” but it is important
to dress nicely and with respect for the court.
Here are some things not to wear:
T-shirts with inappropriate
messages, muscle shirts
Gang colors/gang attire
Tube tops/plunging necklines/bare
If you are not dressed properly,
the court may have you leave and come back another day.
Please remember that the court is
not allowed to be on anyone’s side, but must give everyone a chance
to tell his or her side of the story. It is unlikely you will get
everything you want, whether you represent yourself or have an
Almost no one is completely happy
with the outcome of a court case, regardless of who appears to
“win.” The law may require the judge or magistrate to rule in a way
that makes no sense to you: the law may prevent the judge or
magistrate form ruling in the way you want. If you and the other
party in the case cannot resolve your disagreement yourselves, you
will have to live with the court’s decision.
Once the court has made a ruling,
that is the end of your case.
Continuing to try to persuade the court, or anyone else in the case,
to do what you want will not help you and could get you fined or put
in jail. Regardless of the outcome, you should continue to treat
the other people in the case and the court with respect.
Click here for driving directions
to the Justice Center