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Cautions and Instructions


At a minimum one needs to remember that there are little but VERY IMPORTANT differences in the law and court rules not only from state to state but even from county to county within a given state and also changes in the rules from one year to the next.

That means it is imperative to have your own current copy of the state and local court rules for the court your matter is in and then to check and have your papers reviewed by an appropriate attorney before communicating or filing with any adversary or the court.

Remember – APSA provides financial and legal information – not ‘legal advice’ which means you need to have a local attorney advisor review and edit your papers. The information we provide should help you to either do 95% of it yourself or to intelligently engage and monitor an attorney. The harsh reality is that the lawyers make both the laws and court rules which create employment of lawyers – and that professional legal input is often decisive in the final outcome.

Responding to Papers on Time:

As unpleasant as some of these matters may be the problem will not go away and will get very much worse if you do not properly address the matter within time limits. One reason for this is that the laws and court rules have time limits built in to severely punish those who fail to respect the system by not complying with time requirements and deadlines.

That means you must answer a complaint in time – and that is the time to make any counterclaims or cross-claims – not later. It also means you must proceed to properly implement discovery demands and follow-up when not complied with not only by a timely letter but, if necessary by the appropriate motion to ‘Compel Answers’ or for ‘More Specific Answers’.

The same important time issues relate to Depositions, Subpoenas, requests for ‘Judicial Notice’ and ‘Notices to Produce’.

The time issues also apply very importantly to time and method of service and filing. That is why we can not emphasize enough your need for three important books of your own (where you type – not in a library), a legal dictionary, Nolo’s book Represent Yourself In Court and the court rules books. The telephone number for Nolo is: 800-992-6656

Finding the Right Court Rule Book:

The following is our recommendation for court rule books (annotated is much better than plain):

Gann Law Books: NJ court rules other than administrative law courts (which are not courts but central panel agency hearing boards) Tel: 973-268-1200 Gann also publishes good Federal Local Rules for NJ and PA – but you will still need the national Federal Court Rules.

Jones McClure Publishing (O’Connor’s Rule Books): TX various rule and form books – Tel: 800-626-6667. Although Jones McClure publishes a good specialized Federal Texas rule book – if Federal Court you will need the national Federal Court Rules.

Lexis (Michie Co): With their annotated rule books is the recommended vendor for the following states: AL, AK, AZ, AR, CO, DE, DC, FED, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, MD, NE, NV, NM, PR, RI, SD, TN, UT, VT, VA, VI, WA, WV, WY, Tel: 800-562-1197

West Publishing Co: Their rule books are largely not annotated with narrow exceptions. However West does publish a rule book for nearly all jurisdictions – including Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure as well as Federal Annotated Civil Rules. Tel: 800-328-9352

Note: There are also Rules of Evidence and each of the above publishers produce evidence rule books and additionally the pocket books of Objections at Trial can be obtained from NITA Tel: 800-225-6482

Basic Principles of Motion Practice:

The compliance with court rules by a pro se party is especially important because 4 out of 5 judges are really hostile to pro se parties and regularly engage in the despicable double standard of allowing failures by an attorney to be waived via the concept of “excusable neglect” while telling a pro se that they “should have hired a lawyer”.

That means if you are to have your papers served 16 days before a return date it means received by the adversary attorney by then. Make sure you document this and take the proof with you to any oral arguments on the motion. For example in NJ family court R. 5:5-4 (c) requires “every motion to have the following language . . . “ which is supposed to inform a pro se party of what to do – but we have seen it primarily applied by matrimonial lawyers for knocking out a motion by a pro se party because the lawyer complained to the court they did not get that part telling them how and where to file etc. when of course they know that cold and can do it in their sleep.

Keep your motion papers short and only to the specific points. Essentially make a short one sentence statement and provide the supporting exhibit(s). If the other person made the motion then respond in the same sequence so the judge and his/her law clerk can match up the two sides. The biggest mistake pro se parties make is to put in a long list of all the “facts to show the court they are right” unfortunately that approach almost always results in losing because it dilutes the key counter point and exhibit. Remember keep it short and simple as “statement – exhibit” for each point. A good affidavit in support of your motion or opposing an adversary’s motion is about 4 double spaced pages – never more than 10 pages.

Sample Forms at this site:

These are generic in nature and you need to check your court’s rule book and exact variations in caption format and other unique characteristics and modify accordingly. That is another reason why one needs to have their matter and papers reviewed by a local attorney even if representing themselves. Remember that the court rules for format, time and service requirements are important.

Signing of Summons, Subpoenas and other by “court clerk”:

In many court systems these papers are not actually signed by the court clerk. The attorney or pro se party are instructed to sign in that space in the name of the clerk. When you do this it should be proceeded by s / so that it is: s / signature which means signed in the name of the person.

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