help for the pro se defendant


In preparing yesterday’s posting on the Beninca case in Brisbane (Australia), I again had the impression that the vast majority of self-help materials for litigants is written from the perspective of the person filing a claim (the plaintiff, petitioner, claimant), and not the person being sued.   Maybe I’ve seen an unrepresentative sample of resources from court websites and self-help centers.   If so, I hope that pro se practitioners, law librarians, self-helpers and others in the know, will help correct that impression by letting us know, in Comments to this posting (or in postings of your own here or elsewhere), of materials that have been prepared to assist those who are appearing in court without a lawyer, or considering doing so, after being sued

Here are a few defendant/respondent-oriented materials to start our collection:

For California Small Claims: What to do if you are being sued.

From Nova Scotia (Canada): How to File a Defence in a Civil Court Case.

From the Law Courts Education Society of British Columbia [Canada]: Responding to an Appeal – Civil Cases [15-pp pdf.]

From New Jersey: How to Answer a Complaint in the Special Civil Part (March 2006), relating to cases under $15,000.

bombFuse Appearing without a lawyer as the plaintiff is scary.  Having to do so when you are the one being sued and facing a judgment against you has to be, in general, even scarier.  Let’s create a good list here of documents helpful to such individuals. [Afterthought: Even if written from the perspective of those filing a claim or starting a lawsuit, most materials at judicial websites for the self-represented contain information about court procedures and the presentation of a case that can also be used/adapted by the defendant.  After reading such general self-help documents, litigants who are not sure how to respond pro se to a lawsuit, should should not be shy about asking court staff for help clarifying procedures.]

update (Jan. 24, 2007): I discovered yesterday that Illinois Legal Aid has created self-help and informational materials for defendants or respondents. Along with many other general or plaintiff-oriented self-help articles, you’ll find links to the following pieces in the SideBar of the linked Illinois Legal Aid Online webpage:

  •  How Do I Respond to a Lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County?
     How Do I Settle an Eviction Case with My Landlord? 
     How to Defend Against a Default Judgment If Your Landlord is Trying to Evict You
     How to Get More Time after You Are Ordered to Move Out by a Judge 
     How to Help Defend a Foreclosure Case
     How to Respond to a Petition for Rule to Show Cause
     I am Being Sued in Kane County for an Amount of $10,000 or Less
     What Can I Do If I Am Sued for Mortgage Foreclosure?
     What Can I Do If My Landlord Wants to Evict Me?
     What To Do When You’re Sued by Mistake

1 Comment

  1. david giacalone

    November 10, 2006 @ 4:48 pm


    A frequent situation in family court where the respondent is very often both unrepresented and unsophisticated is in a case where a petitioner is trying to establish the parentage of a child. Better information on the topic would be much appreciated.

    The usually helpful California Courts’ Self-Help Center has a rather uninformative Introduction to Parentage. It has a webpage on How to Establish Parentage but none for the respondent. Likewise, the Questions About Parentage webpage only lists topics relating to establishing parentage, with none about contesting it. On the other hand, the Forms and Instructions page for Parentage cases does have both Forms to Bring an Action to Establish Parentage and Forms to Use If You Were Served With a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship (Form FL-200 or 1296.60), and the basic form to Respond to a Parentage petition is fairly easy to understand and fill out (for me, at least).

    New York State’s CourtHelp website has a brief, fairly balanced information page about “paternity” cases (and even tell the respondent that a lawyer will be provided if he cannot afford one), but the Family Law Forms section only has a form to Petition for Paternity, not one to respond to the petition.

    Are there states out their doing a better job?

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