How to Prepare For Court When Representing Yourself

 

Knowing Your Case

 

Get Organized and Gather Your Materials.

Collect all materials related to your case.  Organize your documents.  Make copies of all documents for the court and other parties.  If you receive court papers, read them right away.  They often include dates important to your case, such as when you have to file papers or go to court.

 

Know the Law and Your Case.

If you do not have a lawyer, you will need to learn about the law that applies to your case, court procedure and rules of professional conduct in the courtroom.  If there is a pending court case, review the paper in the court’s record maintained by the Clerk of Court.

 

 

Preparing For Court

 

Complete the Court Forms and Documents.

Cases are started by filing a petition or motion that clearly states the issue of the case and the resolution being sought.  You may be required to respond to the lawsuit or file papers with the court.  Legal forms and documents can be complicated and it is usually best to consult a lawyer.  However, if you proceed in representing yourself, forms may be available for your use as provided by those resources listed in “Other Resources for Representing Yourself”. Please click here for the link to "Other Resources".

 

Filing Court Forms and Documents.

Filing court forms costs money. If you do not have money to file, you can ask for a court order to let you file papers without paying in advance. To do so, you need to file a form called an “In Forma Pauperis” form, or “IFP” for short. You can complete this form online at the Louisiana Supreme Court’s website: http://www.lasc.org/rules/dist.ct/COURTRULESAPPENDIX8.0.pdf. This document will outline your financial situation so that a judge can decide whether or not to waive the fees. However, you should be prepared to pay all associated costs to file your case in case the judge does not grant a fee waiver.

Do I Need Witnesses? Witnesses can testify about facts to help tell your story. They should know the case and have seen or heard the evidence themselves. If you have a witness who can support your case, you should bring them with you to court. At court, both you and your witnesses should follow a business dress code.

 

Going To Court

 

What Should I Wear to Court?

Court is a business type of environment. Dress in a way that shows respect for the court. You should avoid wearing shorts, tank tops, flip-flop sandals and hair curlers.

 

When Should I Arrive at Court?

Arrive at the courthouse at least 30 minutes before your scheduled court appearance. It is very important that you allow time to park and find your courtroom. If you miss your hearing, the judge can make decisions that you may not agree with and which could seriously affect you.

 

What about Court Security?

Upon entering the courthouse, you will be expected to pass through a metal detector. Any metal object on your body must be removed and inspected.

 

How Do I Find the Correct Courtroom?

Most courts post a list of cases in the lobby of the courthouse. If you need help locating your name, ask a court employee for help. Contact the clerk or the bailiff in the courtroom to let them know you have arrived and to make sure you are in the correct courtroom. Let them know if you need to leave the courtroom for any reason.

 

What Materials Should I Bring?

Bring copies of all documents that you have filed with the court and that you have been served with. The court will not have these documents for you. Also bring copies of the documents that support your case. Organize your evidence so that it is easy for the judge to understand your side of the story.

 

How Long Will I Have to Wait? It is very likely that you will have to wait for your case to be called, depending on the number of other people in court that day and the order in which the judge calls cases. For some cases, you might need to plan on being there all day. Some courts do not allow children in the courtroom. Make sure to schedule enough time away from work or for child care so that you will not miss your court appearance.

 

St. Tammany Parish

Justice Center

22nd Judicial District Court

701 N Columbia Street

Covington, LA 70433

(985) 809-5300

Washington Parish Courthouse

22nd Judicial District Court

909 Pearl Street

Franklinton, LA 70438

(985) 809-5300

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