Question of the Week

Have you seen a pro se litigant prevail in court? How did they do it?


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“The man who represents himself has a fool for a client.” It’s one of the justice system’s oldest maxims. Going pro se is against just about everyone’s advice. But not every pro se litigant loses their case, even when they themselves have no legal background.

Just last week, a pro se litigant was able to defeat the Massachusetts Department of Revenue and get a $100 tax penalty overturned, reports Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. The Appellate Tax Board determined in their opinion (PDF) that Jonathan Haar’s concerns that electronically submitting tax forms would open him up to a “serious invasion of both [his] privacy and [his] personal business practices” was both genuine and valid.

Pro se plaintiffs are some of the most dreaded by defense attorneys, according to the Recorder, partially because they are usually accorded more leeway by judges than litigants with representation. “Courts, in my experience, tend to bend over backward to try and make sure that the pro se party gets a fair shot,” a Jones Day partner told the Recorder.

So this week, we’d like to ask you: Have you seen a pro se litigant prevail in court? What gave them the edge, in your opinion?

Answer in the comments.

Read the answers to last week’s question: Do you think jurors should be able to pose questions to lawyers and trial witnesses?

Featured answer:

Posted by RebeccaW: “Just finished a five day civil trial. Jurors submitted 26 questions, and two follow-ons. Questions are written, counsel and judge review the questions and there is opportunity to object, then the judge reads the questions to the witness, then counsel can ask follow-on questions. I think it’s a great system. The jurors are trying to figure out the facts, and the attorneys are too close to the case to always see what the jurors will want to know. I’ve been on a couple juries, and those juries worked hard to get it right. “

This week’s question was suggested by Mark P. Yablon. Do you have an idea for a future question of the week? If so, contact us.

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