8. “Courts are constituted by authority and they cannot go beyond that power delegated to them. If they act beyond that authority, and certainly in contravention of it, their judgements and orders are regarded as nullities; they are not voidable, but simply void, and this even prior to reversal.” Williamson v. Berry, 8 HOW. 945, 540 12 L.Ed. 1170, 1189 (1850).
I have represented myself in various state and federal courts for years and have experienced firsthand just how unfair our system of justice can be against a person who decides to represent himself. Not long ago a federal judge looked me in the eye and told me just before the trial that I wouldn’t win. The judge did a lot of things during the trial to make it unfair for me, but I did win.
Whether you have been sued, or are planning to sue, you can win your case at various stages of the litigation. You must understand the law as well as the applicable procedural rules. You will win a case if you can show that your opponent missed a filing deadline, has no legitimate cause of action, spoiled or destroyed evidence, or doesn’t have strong enough evidence to win at trial.
If you find yourself up against a lawyer who won't stop rattling off legal citations or won't let you get a word in edgewise, you'll have to stand up for yourself. Tell the judge that you are representing yourself without a lawyer because you can't afford or justify the expense, and that you'll rely on the judge to apply the correct law and reach the right conclusions. Many judges will make an effort to keep the proceedings comprehensible to a self-represented party -- and will take steps to rein in an opposing lawyer who tries to take unfair advantage.
Paul Bergman is a Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law and a recipient of a University Distinguished Teaching Award. His recent books include Reel Justice: The Courtroom Goes to the Movies (Andrews & McMeel); Trial Advocacy: Inferences, Arguments, Techniques (with Moore and Binder, West Publishing Co.); and Represent Yourself In Court and The Criminal Law Handbook (both with Berman-Barrett, Nolo). He has also published numerous articles in law journals.
The HOPE Court judge recognizes that high-risk offenders, who may also have co-occurring disorders, or who have failed in drug abuse treatment, fare better in HOPE Court when they are required to attend frequent status checks. Under Judge Bert Brown’s close courtroom supervision, offenders move from the streets to sober living. The program's success is based upon Judge Brown’s zero judicial tolerance, coupled with rehabilitation programs and alternative sentencing.
One of the first steps that a criminal attorney will take is to request the discovery, or evidence, that the District Attorney plans to use against you. The attorney will then review that discovery to determine the strengths and weaknesses in the evidence against you and the merits of the overall case, and will then determine the risks associated with various defense strategies. Once this analysis is completed, the criminal lawyer will then discuss all of this information with you to determine which next steps to take.
A civil case, more commonly known as a lawsuit or controversy, begins when a plaintiff files a document called a complaint with a court, informing the court of the wrong that the plaintiff has allegedly suffered because of the defendant, and requesting a remedy. The remedy sought may be money, an injunction, which requires the defendant to perform or refrain from performing some action, or a declaratory judgment, which determines that the plaintiff has certain legal rights. The remedy will be prescribed by the court if the plaintiff wins the case. A civil case can also be arbitrated through arbitration, which may result in a faster settlement, with lower costs, than could be obtained by going through a trial.
A pretrial discovery can be defined as "the formal process of exchanging information between the parties about the witnesses and evidence they’ll present at trial" and allows for the evidence of the trial to be presented to the parties before the initial trial begins. The early stages of the lawsuit may involve initial disclosures of evidence by each party and discovery, which is the structured exchange of evidence and statements between the parties. Discovery is meant to eliminate surprises, clarify what the lawsuit is about, and also to make the parties decide if they should settle or drop frivolous claims and/or defenses. At this point the parties may also engage in pretrial motions to exclude or include particular legal or factual issues before trial.