Health Administration Responsibility Project
Some advice for Pro Se plaintiffs

You can get many good hints from the
American Pro Se Association and the
California Court's Self Help Center
One of the major problems we often see in court filings by Pro Se plaintiffs is an excess of angry rhetoric, and a lack of the cool legal reasoning which will convince a court.

Here is some advice from Susan Guberman-Garcia Esq. to one such overheated pro se:

Do you remember "Cool Hand Luke?" "What we have here is a failure to communicate."

When you go into a foreign country and want to communicate with the inhabitants, you have to talk THEIR lingo. Courtrooms are a foreign country and they have their own language. "Complaint language" (or "law talk") is what they call it. If you don't use it in your pleadings (that's what documents you file with the court are), you will not only not be listened to and taken seriously, you will not be HEARD. They will literally not SEE the words on the page if they are not written in their "language."

In street talk, you can talk about what folks ARE. As in: "thieving, scumbag nursing home profiteers, vampires in pinstriped suits living off the blood of their victims and the largesse of the American taxpayer ..."

But in law talk, you talk about what they DID, using PRECISELY those words that track the language of the law that makes them liable for damages. As in "the defendants willfully and maliciously violated their statutory obligation to utilize available financial resources for the care of their residents, including plaintiff."

As soon as the judge (or judge's law clerk) sees street talk in a complaint, the MEGO ("my eyes glaze over") sets in and you might as well forget it. It doesn't translate. Motion to dismiss granted!

So, you have to decide what your goal is: (1) To post your complaint on the web in all its vitriolic splendor and go down in a blaze of glory or (2) to win your case. If its the former, go for it! If its the latter, get some help to draft a complaint in law talk, keep it simple, and go for the bucks you need to survive. You can do that, and still keep the street war going in a forum other than the courtroom. That's the win-win approach.

And here are a few more words of wisdom from Nora Cannon, Esq.:

Eliminate all the adjectives, adverbs, sentences beginning with "It" and most passive voice constructs. ...then if the law requires characterization, slip in the bare minimum number of adverbs, to meet the legal mandate......

And some final advice:

HARP Home Page Top of Page

Please send comments, suggestions and relevant citations to