Litigation is a process that can be understood by average people like us. Though it’s governed by rules, laws, regulations, and procedures, it’s written in plain English (mostly). Any playbook that lawyers and judges have come from these laws. They “run” the plays well because they’ve dealt with more cases than we have. Since we have just one, we must run the plays on a learn-as-you-go basis. That requires starting with the basics, like understanding the structure or stages, of litigation. And if you need help representing yourself in civil court, it’s time to join Courtroom5.
While the job of a motion is to persuade a judge to rule in your favor on a single issue, the purpose of writing a pleading is to make allegations of fact clear to both the court and the opposing party. Following these writing tips, will help you make those points more effectively.
When you’re sued and you want to avoid a default judgment, one of the first things you must do is respond. You can respond in a motion or pleading that essentially says, “Yo! I’m here, and I don’t agree with everything you say,” or “You might be right, but I’m not liable,” or “You can’t sue me because you done screwed everything up.” The first is an answer. The second is an answer and affirmative defenses. The third is a motion to dismiss. Here, we’re concerned with the second, the answer and affirmative defense.
Litigation documents are not the first thing the average person thinks about when they hear the term “legal documents”. Wills, deeds, powers of attorney, tax forms, come to mind first. These are legal documents, but they’re not for the purposes of litigation.
Litigation documents are less formulaic and more intimidating than these. Their purpose is to move a lawsuit along. In that sense, they’re more powerful than documents written on pre-printed forms.
Litigation is fluid, and you can file many documents at any stage. However, this list will make you aware of available litigation documents and when they are most commonly filed.
Understanding the litigation process will help you formulate the basic strategies you need to put up an effective fight. These simple strategies are designed to give you an idea of things to look out for at each stage of litigation.
It’s a mistake to answer a complaint too early. Are you making unnecessary admissions in the answer? Have you found all available affirmative defenses? Wouldn’t it be better to get the claim dismissed? Give yourself time to prepare before answering a complaint. A court order tells you it’s time.