When we go to court as pro se litigants it is very easy for us to say that the lawyers and judges are in bed together and the whole system is corrupt to the core, but in reality this is far from the truth. More often than not these feelings come from our own inexperience, and lack of a complete understanding of the law and the operation of the court system.
First and foremost I would like to urge people not to paint our judicial system with a broad brush. There are good lawyers and judges out there, and I know several of them.
In actions concerning pro se litigants (appearing without an attorney), a pro se is allowed latitude in his pleadings alone. Once we pass from the gallery and step into the court arena we as pro se litigants are held to the same standards as an attorney, because by entering we are doing so with the tacit implication that we know the law and procedure. If we do not follow procedure, misinterpret the law, or misquote prior cases we cannot expect to prevail, no matter how much we have studied.
When dealing with law we must pick out all of the elements of that law and plead in accordance with those elements. We must remember that when our case begins, the court is a blank slate. It is our job to bring our law to the court and allow the court to decide which side has the most law, correctly cited, interpreted, and presented to the court. The one with the most on his side of the scales wins, or that’s the way it is supposed to be.
We know however that is not always the way it is. Sometimes we can see that there is a favoritism shown from the bench for what ever reason. This is known in law as “judicial bias” or “judicial prejudice”. Sometimes we come against a lawyer who is willing to put his or her career on the line by fabricating case law, fabricating documents, or outright lying to the court.
In these cases we still have remedy. The remedy comes in the form of judicial misconduct complaints against corrupt judges and bar grievances and sanctions against bad attorneys. These are very serious offenses as any of them compromises the integrity of the court, the legal profession, and the entire judicial system.
When we seek this type of remedy there are a few things that we need to know before we take off mach 5 with our hair on fire seeking retaliation against these individuals.
Many states require a grievance of misconduct complaint to be verified (notarized under the penalty of perjury). Without regard to this specific requirement all grievances and complaints are filed under the penalty whether or not they have been verified. This means that the complainant must prove by documented evidence that an offense has in deed occurred, and state what law or rule has been violated.
For example, if you are in court and an attorney lies through his teeth to get his way we should order a transcript of the court record. If there is no record we need the affidavit of at least 1 witness. It is also good to know that a lawyer “DOES NOT LIE”. Instead, a lawyer violates the Rules of Professional Conduct – “Candor Toward the Tribunal”. If an attorney claims his bank client is a “National Savings Association” subject to the regulation of the Office of Thrift Supervision, but you know and can prove that the bank is actually a “National Association” subject to regulation of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and that the governing regulations differ as much to effect his argument then a grievance can be issued for that reason. He did not speak with “candor” toward the tribunal.
Another helpful thing to know is that all bar grievances are to be kept “confidential” (see the confidentiality clause in Rules of Professional Conduct). This means that once grieved, both you and the attorney are barred from mentioning the grievance. If a grieved attorney comes into court complaining, ‘your honor the defendant has filed a grievance against me…’ guess what, he just earned another grievance.
Why grieve an attorney or complain against a judge? Attorneys and judges must have a bond or malpractice insurance in order to practice law or take the bench. When an attorney gets grieved they become a liability in the eyes of their insurance carrier and their insurance premiums go up with each successive grievance. If an attorney is grieved often enough he becomes too much of a liability and the insurance carrier sees that they will eventually have to pay out, so rather than have to tender a payout, they will drop his insurance and without it the lawyer is out of business. He cannot practice law without it. If you know an attorney has had to forfeit his bond, or has no malpractice insurance he is now engaged in the “Unauthorized Practice of Law” (UPL) and now he faces going to jail for his or her offense.
The purpose of this article is not to discourage anyone from filing a bar grievance or complaining against a judge, quite the contrary it is to bring a better understanding as to why this should be done. The section of Pro Se Foreclosure, Legal Research Tools > Statutes and Rules has been updated to include the Rules of Professional and Judicial Conduct; Grievance and Complaint Forms (when ever available); Process; and Instructions so that it will be easier to study and understand this aspect of law and to better recognize an offense when one occurs and what can be done about it. Study your state’s rules before going to court so that you will be better equipped to deal with this situation if and when the need arises.