Self Representation in High Court

#1
A group of like affected persons are considering taking a major UK public body to Court on grounds of discrimination and breach of human rights.

We could also be joined by similarly affected persons from outside the UK.

Whilst I don't wish to go into the specifics of the case in public at this point my question relates to us representing ourselves.

We have taken advice from Counsel and it is believed we have a good case as there are gaping holes in the public body's policies, practices and procedures. There is also case law on our side. However, the cost of obtaining even this small piece of advice was far from small and showed us clearly that the case itself would run into many, many thousands (well in excess of £ 50K and probably near £ 100K and that's if we win - with their grossly over-inflated costs I would dread to think what the total costs bill would be if we lost and had to pay their costs).

The outcome of this case could have significant implications on international law and would therefore be undoubtedly high profile. As a result we will undoubtedly have a fight on our hands and this could be a drawn out process, again hiking up the costs.

There are a number of Appeals in process with the public body at the moment and as soon as one of these is refused (as expected) this will be the trigger for the Action, with the other like affected persons being joined as interested parties.

So, as this case would have to go before the High Court, can we represent ourselves and how would we go about this?
 

JINGO

War Hero
Book Reviewer
#2
I have only seen people represent themselves at Magistrates Court before and then they havent been the sharpest tools in the box. To be honest most of the time they have made a complete hash of it.They are always viewed with resigned amusement by most present.
Having said that having many times seen the CPS prosecutors in full flow, my own view is that any person of reasonably sound mind with a logical well prepared body of evidence could make a better job of it.
At Crown court level I would suspect that the body of the court would put more admin/procedural obstructions in the way of those representing themselves. After all it is not in their interests to have the voodoo surrounding the process clarified is it?
I would think that at High Court level these obstructions will only increase. This is only my humble opinion for what its worth, good luck to you.
 
#3
There's a saying within the ranks of the legal eagles;

"A man who represents himself has a fool for a client" !
 
#4
Can you not find someone (or a firm) interested in making a name for themselves rather than screwing you? If there are going to be series of appeals, you are going to need council. In the real world, I doubt if you will manage without them.
 
#5
The problem you'll meet in a High Court is that you'll be up against a Barrister if not a team of Barristers if it is likely to be a high profile case, add to them their retinue of juniors, legal clerks & researchers.

Although you may be able to cite case law, you probably end up in the legal version of tennis where case bats against case and although you may be given a certain amount of leeway, the Judges hands may be tied if you haven't crossed the T's & dotted the I's properly. Their are certain 'rules' & etiiquette within the judicial system & if you're not careful you may be caught out by the 'off-side' rule so to speak!
 
#6
sunami said:
There's a saying within the ranks of the legal eagles;

"A man who represents himself has a fool for a client" !
Yes, but their motive for uttering such nonsense is their potential loss of earnings from the 'fools' that succeed, not to mention the embarrasment caused when joe bloggs beats them at their own game.

Judges are duty bound to ensure litigants in person (or whatever they're called these days) understand proceedings and are suprisingly helpful if they get lost, furthermore they (Lips) are privvy to the cosy chats usually reserved for the wig wearers and that gets right up the noses of the other side!

Go for it OP:)
 
#7
I know of someone who represented herself in the High Court. It wasn't easy -- masses of preparation, sweat, tears, etc -- but the court staff, including the judge, were very helpful. In the end, she didn't get the complete result she wanted, but she didn't lose the case and wasn't destitute after the process.

Good luck.
 
B

Biscuits_AB

Guest
#8
If your case is as good as you believe it to be, why risk it by 'employing' someone who isn't a skilled advocate? Admirable as it all sounds, and I truly wish you luck, you need to sit down with someone who is qualified to discuss this matter with you and to provide you with accurate and honest opinions and guidance on what you should do, if you are serious about the issue you are pursuing. Don't take advice from anyone here unless they have the qualifications and experience to give it, which I doubt very much. Shop around mate. If you win, you won't need to worry about costs. If you lose, Barrister or self-representing, you will. As one poster mentioned, you'll more than likley be up against a team, not one man. They'll have worked out a game plan, and it'll more likely be better than yours. Just wait until you exchange skeletons for proof of that.

It's a hard call mate, just make sure that the advice you get is the best you can get. All the best, I hope you win either way.
 
#9
I Agreee with the above

but if funds are low and you are passionate about your case

then- self representation (lay litigant) may be the way

it is only a tactic I would advise if as I say funds are an issue

the Court staff are normally very helpful and the Bench give more leeway to teh lay litigant-

If you lose your own costs are not that much a factor

but the Bench may not award full costs to the winning side if they field a top heavy team of QC's and Junior

COunsel against a lay litigant

But saying all that the only COurt that is predicatable is Judge Judy
 
#10
For what my humble opinion is worth I think it is admirable that you are willing to take on the Might of the Goliaths to get justice. It takes a brave man or woman to do so.

The big, no huge but, is that I think you will be better off trying to get some help.

There was a film in which Al Pacino said
" the courts do not administer justice, they merely provide you with an opportunity to take it"

Think about that, a good case may not win just because right is on your side. That's what stinks about the law. I have won cases I should not have done because I have outsmarted my opponent and it is fair to say the same has happened the other way round.

We have an adversarial system of justice in the UK - which means the Judge will look at the facts before him/her he will not try to find the truth or get to the bottom of things, indeed s/he is prevented from doing so, mad as that sounds.

The risk you have of losing just by the sheer size of your opponent is great. And if you do lose, you will more likely than not have an Order for costs against you -which could be as you said rightly, a six figure sum. That may mean you end up selling your possession?, homeless? or worse, bankrupt?

I am sorry to be doom and gloom but I like to always be fair and honest.

I do know one brilliant trial advocate who is coming up to retirement (he is not old but has just had enough of the Law) who unfortunately said he would not take on any more cases now, but loves taking on the "Establishment" and often does so for paltry sums of money - PM me and I will TRY to introduce you to him. But I make no promises.[align=justify]
 
#11
I take it there was no like minded person who was
a) eligible for legal aid or whatever its called,
b) free of assets and income and therefore had less to lose in an expense award if the judgement went against them, and
c) was willing to be first over the top on the basis that those with houses and assets could then follow when the precedent was established . . .
 
#12
sunami said:
There's a saying within the ranks of the legal eagles;

"A man who represents himself has a fool for a client" !
A useless little 'homily'' used by pompous intellectually idle lawyers who prefer metaphore as a substitute for rational analysis in the rather naive belief that the law exists for the sole purpose of providing them with a living!

Another favourite is 'a little knowledge is a dangerous thing'. It is an expression intended to deter, discourage and close down inconvenient questions. It is generally used defensively by those who profess to be possessed of a monopoly of it and find to their great embarrassment that they have been humilated before a judge by a non-qualfied advocate!
 

Mr_Fingerz

LE
Book Reviewer
#14
Your best bet would be not to be a litigant in person, but to get a brief to act "pro bono".

Human Rights law is hugely specialised and if the case is as significant as you state, then if you lose you greatly affect the wider public than if you had won.

Apologies for the negativity....
 
#15
Iolis said:
sunami said:
"A man who represents himself has a fool for a client" !
A useless little 'homily'' used by pompous intellectually idle lawyers who prefer metaphore as a substitute for rational analysis in the rather naive belief that the law exists for the sole purpose of providing them with a living!
But most often used, by lawyers (I am not one), for cases of a qualified lawyer representing themselves rather than victims / complainants doing so. Emotional closeness to a case often blinds to to the legal quirks and constraints that may make it better to abandon a case, accept a partial settlement, or find another way to achieve justice. The law is neither perfect (nothing is) nor fair - but it is the system we have.

Another favourite is 'a little knowledge is a dangerous thing'. It is an expression intended to deter, discourage and close down inconvenient questions. It is generally used defensively by those who profess to be possessed of a monopoly of it and find to their great embarrassment that they have been humilated before a judge by a non-qualfied advocate!
YMMV. Regardless, in my profession it is an entirely true statement (and unfortunately true of far too many people who hold themselves out to be qualified professionals.) When used in response to a question, it should always be accompanied with the explanation (time permitting) of the true situation - in legal terms this is often because of the impact of case law and, generally, most non-lawyers see very little of that.

As an aside, it has been interesting on a number of occasions having to educate even specialist lawyers regarding the various laws and cases existing that affect what I do. But I wouldn't pretend to have any idea about contract, housing or family law, for example.
 
#16
Iolis said:
sunami said:
There's a saying within the ranks of the legal eagles;

"A man who represents himself has a fool for a client" !
A useless little 'homily'' used by pompous intellectually idle lawyers who prefer metaphore as a substitute for rational analysis in the rather naive belief that the law exists for the sole purpose of providing them with a living!

Another favourite is 'a little knowledge is a dangerous thing'. It is an expression intended to deter, discourage and close down inconvenient questions. It is generally used defensively by those who profess to be possessed of a monopoly of it and find to their great embarrassment that they have been humilated before a judge by a non-qualfied advocate!
I work in the criminal sector.

I've seen many people come a cropper in court because they wanted to represent themselves.

This is often, though not exclusively, because they have consulted lawyers, been told they have no case and should plead guilty to obtain any discount, but have pressed on regardless in the unshakeable belief that the are innocent despite all the contrary evidence.

And I often think of those witty bon mots

a) as the book is metaphorically thrown at the accused and

b) during the pitiful attempt at a plea in mitigation.
 
#17
Just remember if you loose they might hit you for the costs, take great care a friend of mine won the case but not the costs, it bancrupted him he went up against the envronment agency and they draged it out for years until he ran out of cash. They then droped the case, the Judge went balistic but could nothing

REF Christopher Booker Sunday Telegraph 20 Dec 2008
 
#18
tropper66 said:
Just remember if you loose they might hit you for the costs,
If you lose your case you will be liable for all legal costs. Tread carefully and dont self represent. The Defendant may win on a technicality if you dont know what you are doing or supply the correct information.
 
#19
tropper66 said:
Just remember if you loose they might hit you for the costs, take great care a friend of mine won the case but not the costs,
In addition to costs if you lose you will have done something worse. You will have created a legal precedent supportive of the other side.

I have very little knowlege of the British courts but I am a lawyer in the US, although I have not been in court for a number of years as I was promoted to an administrative job in government. I have however tried matters at all levels of the courts in my home state and the federal system (only one case in the US Supreme Court, I lost)

There is a very real risk that if you go "pro se" (i.e. representing yourselves) you will end up with a result that will be supportive of your opponents for many years.

As to the "... fool for a client" quote above, it is very true, not just something put forward by "Barristers and Soliciters Union Local 5". I remember many years ago dealing with an estate. The man who died had decided to save money and write his own will on forms from a stationary store. The result was I spent over 100 billable hours straightening out the mess he had created and it ended up costing the estate about a hundred times what it would have cost to have a lawyer write the will.

I might suggest you write to law professors at law schools in your area as sometimes they will take on a case in an area of law that interests them and they can often draw on law students to do research which gives the students experience.

Good luck with your case.
 
#20
Funny that, I saw a first year law student from Southampton University, Stephen Horne, with his 'little knowledge' use a provision of the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations to take on Lloyds bank as a result of which, literally millions of Pounds in unfair penalty charges have been refunded to hundreds of thousands of current account holders in this country - something beyond the intellectual and professional capacity of the lawyers in the OFT who have a statutory responsibility in that area who were shamed into launching a belated action before the High Court.

I personally have experience of one woman who, after visiting three high street solicitors who took her money and told her she had 'no chance of success' aproach a lay advisor working for SSAFFA who took one look at the executed fixed sum credit agreement, checked and compared it with the provisions of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 (prior to it's subsequent amendment) and in one telephone call which cost no more than 20p had a major bank write off the debt because it was unenforceable against her. In so doing, he freed her from lifelong financial servitude to the bank and gave her her life back.

Check out 'Solicitors from Hell' a website full of members of the public who are thoroughly fed up with solicitors and their smug 'homilies' and wonder why it is that there are so many people who feel they have little choice but to represent themselves and why the government have given the legal profession the biggest 'shake up' of its existence in enacting the Legal Services Act 2007, the final provisions of which will come into effect in 2011.

I am not here to 'lawyer bash' I have known some excellent solicitors who give freely of their time but I am afraid I have little time for the smug complacency of many of them who claim exclusive dominion over the law and regard those outside of their profession as 'congenital idiots' who have no business intefering in what they wrongly believe they own!

Regards and best wishes.
 

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