Thursday, December 24, 2009

Acting As Your Own Lawyer, Bad Idea

Here at Bad Lawyer, I've repeatedly talked about how ill-advised it is to act as your own attorney.  This is true, not only for lay persons;  but, the advice is equally, if not more true for lawyers.  Look there is just too much at stake when you are in the courtroom--you need objective insight and detached cool.  While self-representation is not impossible to pull off as the great former Youngstown, Ohio congressman and currrent Indian Casino-spokesman, James Traficante demonstrated, well, once--unless you are as batshit crazy as Jimmy, don't do it. reports onSt. Joseph, Missouri burglary suspect, Arthur Monk, age 52.  Mr. Monk did not have the wisdom of the Bad Lawyer readily available to him, and proceeded to trial in Buchanan County having fired his public defender.   It did not go as well as Mr. Monk might have wished.  Just as a professional note, when your trial judge is named Judge Dan Kellogg you might want to stick to "your Honoor" or "Judge," calling him Kelloggs (sic) probably isn't going to endear yourself to him. 

Also when your girlfriend comes into court and says you did the crime, and testifies that you told her that you did the crime, the correct response is not to call the testimony "hearsay."  First using a legal word, gives the impression that you know-what-the-fuck you're talking about when in reality your are a complete ignoramus.  Secondly, hearsay is a doctrine that applies to out of court declarations that are offered into evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted;  and, guess what, Ace, they come in agasint you under the well-recognized "exception" called "admissions against interest."  Did you ever notice, confessions are offered at trials all the time?  You see, there are things like Rules of Evidence that a prospective trial lawyer might wish to have some capacity to properly invoke.   Another thing, when "hearsay" is offered at trial, you might want to address the truth/content other than dismissing the testimony, as "just hearsay." 

Finally, when there is a video of you committing the crime, you might want to offer some evidence challenging the proposition that the person in the video is you.

In all seriousness, I was in court the other day and a scowling young man was sitting at the lawyer's table with a veteran lawyer who had obtained the offer of a plea deal that guaranteed that this young thug--also caught on video doing the deed he was accused of doing--would after all was said and done, still be able to get out of prison sometime in his remaining reproductive years.  The young thug told the judge that he and his lawyer were not "seeing eye to eye,"  and would the court please fire the lawyer and appoint a new lawyer for him.  The judge patiently explained to the defendant, that if he, the Judge, were charged with the crime, not only would he want this lawyer to represent him, but that he would listen to the lawyer's advice.  He then continued the scheduled trial for two hours.  When last I heard, the young criminal defendant came to his senses and took the plea deal. 

Every person involved in a legal proceeding as a party is in peril in the courtroom, do not act as your lawyer--the adage is true:  the pro se litigant has a fool for a client, and a fool for a lawyer.


  1. This reminds me, in a silly way, of something that happened when I was first married. My husband has kind of curly, unruly hair, and he likes to keep it short. So one day, I mentioned that I used to cut hair for several of my male friends, and I'd be happy to cut his, too. So he went out and bought a haircutting kit, and we were all excited about saving a big twenty bucks a month. So I cut it, and found it was--guess what?--a lot harder to do than I'd thought. It was a mess. So he forgives me, goes to the barber. The barber says, "what happened?" My husband tells him, and the barber shakes his head, sighing. "Everybody's a barber," he says. Then proceeds to fix the mess I'd made.

  2. I've had a few issue with traffic court, and every time I've tried to defend myself, I've lost. Hopefully, I won't have to deal with the court again, but if I do, I don't want to defend myself. Next time I have to go to court, I'm getting a lawyer.

    Sara Welsh |