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Your Right to Sue as Pro Se

Spend less than half a second of internet research on pro se representation, and you will be certain you are not qualified to represent yourself. Attorney websites will have you believing it isn't possible to win a lawsuit without the assistance of an attorney. In some cases, this may be true. Maybe in a lot of cases. But it isn't true in all cases, and if you need justice but can't afford legal fees, you have options. We are not lawyers, but we have been in a position in which we needed to sue a bully who was harming us terribly. We can't and don't give legal advice. We think, however, that the resources we use might be helpful to other pro se litigants.

Title 28 28 U.S.C.§ 1654 provides: "In all courts of the United States the parties may plead and conduct their own cases personally or by counsel as, by the rules of such courts, respectively, are permitted to manage and conduct causes therein." There are some exceptions to this in North Carolina regarding corporations, so you should do your research here and here and other places (we will be adding resources over the next couple of months).

One of the best strategies we use for research and "go-bys" is the following:

  • Go to Google Scholar, choose your jurisdiction, choose case law or articles.

  • Search for a case (that's another blog altogether).

  • Once you find the case, look at the caption information at the top - it looks like this"

JESSICA HARDY, a minor, by and through her parent, GAIL HARDY, Plaintiff-Appellant v. BEAUFORT COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION; JEFFREY MOSS, Superintendent, Beaufort County Schools, in his official capacity, Defendants-Appellees

No. COA08-1053

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

  • Notice the line that says No. COA08-1053? That stands for Court of Appeals case number 08 (year)-1053 (case number). Write that number down.

  • Now, go to the NC Appellate Court website (for e-filing).

  • Under the heading "Search Document Library" put the case number (08-1053) in the box labeled "Case Number". Be aware, the e-filing site only goes back to 1998. Cases before that are not uploaded to the site.

  • Leave the other boxes blank and click "Search".

  • You should see this:

Search Results

5 results (showing 0 - 50) (0.871 seconds)

08-1053 : Hardy v Beaufort Co. Bd. of Educ. All Documents For This Case : Docket Sheet Record (record (printed)) Filed By: Erwin Byrd 2008-08-28 Appellant Brief Filed By: Erwin Byrd 2008-10-13 Other Brief (amicus) Filed By: Christopher Z. Campbell 2008-11-07 Appellee Brief Filed By: Curtis H. (Trey) Allen 2008-11-26 Appellant Brief (reply) Filed By: Erwin Byrd 2008-12-15

  • Click on "Record" and a PDF of every document filed in the case will download as a PDF to your computer. There will be documents such as the Complaint, Answer, Motions, Notices, etc. These are go-bys, and lawyers have access to such resources through Westlaw (way too expensive).

  • YOU CANNOT COPY VERBATIM these documents. That's plagiarism.

  • We have used them to understand how legal documents should look and what wording they should contain.

  • We have also read the briefs because they include tons of case law. Case law has helped us understand the issues of our litigation in ways that we never understood them before. It has also helped us realize that even when something FEELS very unjust, it may not be against the law.

We will add more resources as we have time!

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