Monday, January 11, 2010

Representing Yourself in Court

Representing yourself

The old saying goes that a man that represents himself has a fool for his client. At least that’s what a lot of lawyers in Pittsburgh would like you to believe. You may, however, be wondering- Is it ever sensible to appear in PA Court without a lawyer?

The answer, which you may find surprising coming from a Pittsburgh lawyer, is “yes.” I, of course, am not saying that everyone should represent themselves and never use an attorney. To the contrary, most cases are complex enough that it is in your best interest to seek legal counsel.

But, when it comes to small claims in Pittsburgh, it is often fine, even ideal, for you to represent yourself. In fact, small claims court was designed for citizens to bring claims on their own. Plus, you can save yourself the expense of a lawyer who will charge you a significant amount of money or a large percentage of your recovery.

Where do you file?

In Pittsburgh, Pa, smaller lawsuits may be filed in District Justice Court- more commonly referred to as Small Claims Court. The following information about representing yourself in Pittsburgh can be found on the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas website here.

The Magisterial District Court in Pennsylvania is a community-based judicial system comprised of forty-eight districts handling over 200,000 case filings per year. Matters handled in these courts allow for the quick resolution of, among other things:

1. Civil matters- contract, torts, landlord/tenant disputes not exceeding $8,000.00

2. Civil matters – contract, torts, landlord/tenant disputes not exceeding $8,000

* A filing fee (ranging from $37.50 to $82.50, depending on the amount in dispute) is required. But, if you win your case, the other party will usually be required to reimburse you for the filing fee.

Once you have prepared your Complaint you can take it to a magisterial district court where: (1) the individual may be served, or (2) the cause of action arose, or (3) a transaction or occurrence took place out of which the cause of action arose.

To determine the appropriate district court filing location, please click here.

Bottom Line: If the amount in controversy is not too great and you are willing to put in the time and effort to prepare you can represent yourself in court in Pittsburgh. Good luck! Share this post :
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