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The Kansas Supreme Court
301 SW 10th Avenue
Topeka Kansas 66612-1507

Office of Judicial Administration
Telephone:
 785.296.2256
Fax:  785.296.7076
Email: info@kscourts.org

Appellate Clerk's Office
Telephone:
 785.296.3229
Fax:  785.296.1028
Email: appellateclerk@kscourts.org


Should I represent myself

There are times when people choose to represent themselves in a Kansas court.  The following questions are designed to help you with your case without the assistance of a lawyer.  Most people come to court because something is affecting their lives, maybe in stressful and emotional ways. Learning the law and court processes can also be difficult and stressful.  In fact, sometimes when people act as their own lawyer in complicated cases, they need to hire a lawyer later to "fix" mistakes.  Hiring a lawyer after the fact could cost more than using a lawyer from the start.
1.         Are you on time for meetings and deadlines?

  • The court expects you to be on time (a little early is better) for hearings and paperwork.
  • Use a daily calendar with reminders of your court "to do's."

2.         Can you make it to the courthouse during the day (during business hours)?

  • You will need to arrange your work schedule and transportation to get to court a few times, both to file paperwork and be at hearings.

3.         Do you fill out and file your own income tax returns?

  • Court forms can be complicated, much like income tax returns.
  • Reading instructions, following steps, and paying attention to detail are necessary to complete court forms.
  • You must be organized and prepared to successfully file the proper court forms.

4.         Are you comfortable doing research in a library or on a computer?

  • Most people do not know the laws and rules that control their cases.  Many people are also unsure what forms and documents need to be filed with the court to start and continue their cases.
  • Learning the laws and rules for your case is required to be successful.  While the court may provide forms for you to fill out and file, you will likely have questions. Court staff can only give you limited answers to your questions because of their duty to be fair to all parties.
  • If you do not take the time to learn the laws and rules of your case, you are unlikely to be successful.  You may also feel frustrated and unfairly treated because you do not understand what is happening.
  • You can hire a lawyer just to do the research.  It may save you lots of research time, because a lawyer is already trained to know the laws and the rules that control your case.  A lawyer may do some research on specific concerns in your case to make the best argument.  Without using a lawyer, you may miss some of the arguments you could make.

5.         Are you likely to be clear and calm when you stand up and speak in court?

  • Representing yourself means you must attend all the scheduled appearances with the judge. At these appearances you will be required to speak clearly and logically while presenting your case.
  • If the other party has a lawyer and you do not, you cannot count on the other lawyer to help you or speak for you.  You must speak to the court yourself.

6.         Do you easily get angry under stress?

  • Coming to court can be difficult and stressful.  Because you have something to gain or lose in your case or you are angry or upset at the other party, you may find it more difficult to control your emotions in the courtroom and while speaking.  You may also find that your good judgment is clouded by your stress or anger.
  • You must be courteous at all times to court staff, the judge, and the other party to your case.  You cannot interrupt the other party, the judge, or others while they are speaking.

7.         Are you often frustrated by rules you think are unfair or should not apply to you?

  • All types of cases are controlled by rules and procedures.  These rules and procedures are in place to give everyone a level playing field.  Though a rule may seem silly or wrong, the rule must be followed to make sure your case is fairly handled.

8.         Can you make decisions and stick to them?

  • Most court processes are formal and lasting.  Once you make a claim, a statement, or a filing it is difficult to make changes.  Any doubts or questions should be considered and answered before you start.

9.         Can you live with your mistakes?

  • If you represent yourself, you are likely to make some mistakes.  If you regret decisions or often dwell on actions you have taken, you may cause yourself stress and anxiety.  You may also hurt your ability to be successful in your case.

10.       What is at stake in your case?  Do you and the other party get along?

  • Every case is important, but some cases may have a bigger effect on you because of the large amount of money, property, or other people involved (such as children).  Cases involving large amounts of money or a number of people are more complicated.
  • If you and the other party had a relationship that included physical or emotional abuse, you may have trouble keeping a steady emotional state.  Being calm and logical is necessary to make good decisions in your case.
  • If you feel the other party is good at "hiding" money or property (such as on tax forms), or if you have no idea about the other party's financial status, using a lawyer may be helpful in locating the other party's financial assets and collecting on a judgment or settlement.

Limited Representation
You can hire an attorney to do parts of your case or to advise you depending upon how much assistance you can afford.   A lawyer can advise you of issues that you will need to be aware of.   Hiring an attorney to provide limited assistance may help with you representing yourself so that your rights are protected and that you know what to do at different stages of your case.