Pro Se it Ain’t So

Abraham Lincoln had it right. “He who represents himself has a fool for a client”

I just tried a case in a smaller county near Charleston. More rural. Less people, but deep Lowcountry

Before a jury

Duly qualified, sworn in, accepting of their juror’s oath

On the other side, a couple representing themselves. They had a lawyer at one point, but they fired that fellow member of the bar claiming inability to pay. I suspect the lawyer called them out, instead, on their mendacity

In what should have been a simple, half day case, the Defendants lack of knowledge of the rules, the law, the procedures made things take longer and the jury was not amused. Like Not Amused. Like We Are Not Amused

Neither was our Judge, who really did her absolute best to accommodate parties who have every right to represent themselves. Which these people did. Not to their own benefit

Hearsay? What’s that?

Best Evidence Rule? Never heard of it

The Judge and I had full on legal discussions regarding voir dire, Batson challenges, objections, directed verdict motions, jury charges, elections of remedies, prejudicial statements in closing arguments, and potential bifurcation of damages, actual and punitive. The Defendants sat in confused silence

“Sir, you absolutely cannot ask the jury to put themselves in your situation during a closing argument. That may work in the movies, but not in a South Carolina courtroom. That is highly prejudicial. Jurors, you will disregard everything the Defendant just said”

Ouch

I went to three more years of college (law school) and have been doing this for a minute (almost a quarter century) and was a total procedure geek in law school (SCRCivP; SCREvid)

The Defendants flat out lied about something in a real estate transaction and refused to acknowledge it

The Defendants flat out lied in court, too

After the Judge charged the jury as to negligent misrepresentation, violation of the South Carolina Residential Property Condition Disclosure Act, and fraud, the three causes of action brought by my clients against Defendant, the jury retired to deliberate

They deliberated for an hour and sent out a question asking for clarification as to the jury charge for fraud. A good sign for my clients

Another hour went by and the jury advised one of the bailiffs they had reached a verdict

A fabulous older bailiff, retired county sheriff’s deputy, with a strong regional accent, said, “I’ll get Huh Honuh”

Huh Honuh returned to the bench

My clients and I stood as the jury entered into the courtroom. That’s an old sign of respect taught me by older lawyers

“Mr. Foreman, has the jury reached a verdict?”

“Yes, Your Honor, we have”

“Please pass the verdict form to the Bailiff”

The Bailiff then passed the verdict to Huh Honuh who read the form and passed it to the assistant Clerk of Court

“Madame Clerk, please publish the verdict”

Well, Madame Clerk did. The jury found for our clients on all three causes of action and awarded six figures worth of damages

“Anything from the Plaintiff or the Defendant?”

“Your Honor, please poll the jurors,” I requested

“Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, if this is your true and unanimous, please raise your right hand”

All the jurors raised their right hands

“I find that every juror has raised his or her right hand and has indicated this is their true and unanimous verdict”

So, these Defendants will now have a verdict over $200,000 following them around for the next ten years, provided we don’t collect first

I would imagine on their ride home, they quoted Dick the Butcher in good old Billy Shakespeare’s Henry VI

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”

If only they had one

One thought on “Pro Se it Ain’t So

  1. I have had supposedly men of intelligence quote that thing about killing all the lawyers. I have always asked: “do you know why?”
    Usually a confused look followed. I then add “Because they wanted to create anarchy and lawyers stood in the way.” Usually all talk then ceased.

    Liked by 1 person

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