Shortsightedness is a mistake common to pro se litigants. It is
easy to become lost in the back and forth of trial preparations and discovery, depositions and interrogatories.
Even experienced lawyers manage to run afoul of court deadlines and cough up the momentum, trying to play catch
up late in the game as the day of trial approaches. For the pro se, it’s almost expected.
And make no mistake about your opponent. He or she will
certainly angle and maneuver –especially if your opponent has a lawyer – to delay, discourage and otherwise
sidetrack your efforts. Why not? It makes good tactical sense to dictate these terms to the opposition. At the
very least he can force you to operate on his terms at his pace and if you are unable to properly prepare your
case for trial, the better for him, right? And at best, there’s always the chance you’ll just give up, become
discouraged with the expense and delay and walk away, or meet his terms for settlement.
Watch out for delaying tactics and drive around or through them
quickly. Be aggressive. Expect that your opponent will check every attachment, enclosure, and inclusion for
accuracy and that he or she will challenge everything from whether the statute of limitations has expired to
whether your process server delivered the complaint and attachments correctly. There will likely be motions to
deal with and possible counterclaims; don’t let them sidetrack you.
Don’t sidetrack yourself either. Use the discovery phase to mine
every promising vein for information to advance your cause, but keep your questions sharp and specific. Sharp,
well-formed inquiries require thought and preparation, but will yield more substantive answers and won’t cause
you to bog down as easily.
How do you defend against a countercharge by your opponent
that your case is frivolous, malicious and intended to harass or otherwise “abuse the process?” Here’s how.
File a statement of “evidentiary support” drawing on the knowledge and expertise of a professional to
basically acknowledge your injuries and its approximate causes and agreeing that in his or her professional
opinion, you damages were caused by your opponent.
One method to help manage the pace of your case and dictate the
initiative to your opponent is to start with a case outline and timeline that becomes part of your trial
- Type of case:
- Contact and background information:
Opposing parties and lawyers
- Case Objectives:
Rationale – why pursue the case?
How will I know if I have won?
What are the damages, judgments, I am seeking?
Is there room for settlement, arbitration?
What are the main themes of the case?
What is my overall strategy?
What information do I need and how do I get it?
- Legal issues:
What factual allegations are necessary to properly state my
What evidence is needed to support those allegations?
Who are the witnesses that can establish these facts?
What are the records and other evidence I need.
- Time frame issues:
What are the statute of limitations issues pertaining to my
When did the clock start ticking?
What deadlines or time constraints relate to key witnesses or
- Other issues:
What will my opponents claim in the course of their
Will they counterclaim?
Are there any third parties who have liabilities?
What are the anticipated expenses I will face?
After working through these items you are ready to begin
constructing your plan of action and trial book. This outline can safely be called the beginning of your
preparations for trial and will assist you as you proceed through the rest of the necessary pre-trial