(312) 431-1283 or (888) 431-1283 • Fax: (312) 554-2054 E-mail address: email@example.com Website: ija.org 321 South Plymouth Court • Chicago, IL 60604 Maureen McClelland, Executive Director James R. Epstein Ronald D. Spears Lewis M. Nixon Mary S. Schostok Rita M. Novak M. Carol Pope President First Vice President Second Vice President Third Vice President Secretary Treasurer firstname.lastname@example.org Ron_spears@consolidated.net Lewis.Nixon@prodigy.net email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com 2405 Richard J. Daley Center Christian County Courthouse 2802 Richard J. Daley Center 712 Florsheim, #10 2402 Richard J. Daley Center 105 E. Douglas Chicago, IL 60602 Taylorville, IL 62568 Chicago, IL 60602 Libertyville, IL 60048 Chicago, IL 60602 Petersburg, IL 62675 312/603-3343 217/824-4810 312/603-3900 847/918-8590 312/603-5487 217/632-7970 CONTACT: Chris Ruys Communications, Inc. Chris Ruys (312) 337-7746; firstname.lastname@example.org For Immediate Release March 2009 Judges Offer Advice on Using Pro Se Court Representing yourself in court without an attorney may seem like a cost-effective way to save on attorney’s fees for non-criminal matters involving a few hundred dollars, but two state judges who hear pro se cases (pro se is Latin for “in one’s own behalf”) urge litigants to use caution when making the decision to forego the counsel of a lawyer. Judge Martin P. Moltz, who sits on the bench in the Circuit Court of Cook County, in Chicago, and Judge James Borbely, of the Fifth Judicial Circuit in Vermilion County, in Danville, say that litigants who represent themselves in court should learn as much as possible about court procedures and rules of evidence, and be fully prepared with the evidence when presenting their case before a judge. Both judges are board members of the Illinois Judges Association. “Everyone in our country has the legal right to represent themselves in court, but those who aren’t familiar with court procedures can easily lose their way,” says Judge Borbely. “TV reality shows featuring judges tend to make people believe they can do it on their own, but while litigants may save money in the short run, they can lose in the long run.” Judge Moltz says that the pro se litigant can easily become overwhelmed, especially if the opponent has a lawyer. “If there is a lawyer representing the opposition, the pro se litigant’s lack of experience can be detrimental,” he says. Pro se litigants often fail to present adequate documentation to prove their side, he continues. “Unfortunately, the defense ‘I don’t remember’ is not an admissible defense,” he states. -more- BOARD OF DIRECTORS: Robert J. Anderson • Robert W. Bertucci • Arnold F. Blockman • James K. Borbely • James R. Brown • Robert L. Carter • Joseph M. Claps Gloria G. Coco Kimberly L. Dahlen • Israel A. Desierto • John T. Doody • Mark A. Drummond • Laurence J. Dunford • Kathy Bradshaw Elliott • Clark E. Erickson Timothy C. Evans • Timothy R. Gill • Richard P. Goldenhersh • Kay Marie Hanlon • John L. Hauptman • Patrick J. Hitpas • Michael B. Hyman • Cheyrl Ingram Edward R. Jordan • Ann B. Jorgensen • Lloyd A. Karmeier • Richard A. Kavitt • Gerald R. Kinney • Veronica B. Mathein • Stephen C. Mathers • Gregory K. McClintock Maureen P. McIntyre • Martin P. Moltz • Stuart A. Nudelman • Jorge L. Ortiz • Stuart E. Palmer • Kathleen M. Pantle • Jesse G. Reyes • Thomas David Roti Stephen G. Sawyer • Mark A. Schuering • Naomi H. Schuster • Daniel B. Shanes • M. Karen Simpson • Timothy J. Slavin • John O. Steele • Robert J. Steigmann Bruce D. Stewart • Michael W. Stuttley • Shelley Sutker-Dermer • Elmer J. Tolmaire III • Valarie E. Turner • Daniel S. Weber • James M. Wexstten • Leo J. Zappa PAGE TWO Before deciding to go it alone, every effort should be made to try to find legal representation, for example, contacting a local bar association or a legal services organization or legal clinic. For those who are determined to represent themselves in court, the judges say that self-education is key. Pro se litigants are held to the same standards as lawyers, and failure to follow court rules can subject pro se litigant to the same penalties as lawyers. You may not contact the judge or the judge’s staff to ask for legal advice. Many counties in Illinois offer free brochures or information on their web sites to help pro se litigants. In Chicago, there is a Pro Se Help Desk in the Daley Center with free assistance available to pro se litigants in interpreting and filling out court-required documents. While County Clerk staff is forbidden by law from giving legal advice, they can offer information to plaintiffs and defendants throughout their case on matters ranging from court procedures and fees to how to follow up on the judge’s orders following a ruling. Also, free legal information is on line at www.IllinoisLegalAid.org. The Illinois Judges Association, established in 1971, provides continuing legal education to members of the judiciary and education to the public on the Illinois courts and court procedures. For further information, write to the IJA at 321 S. Plymouth Court, Chicago, IL 60604-3997, or visit their web site at www.ija.org. ### Note: This information was prepared as a public service by the Illinois Judges Association. Its purpose is to inform citizens of their legal rights and obligations. Consult a lawyer if you have questions about the application of the law in a particular case.