How to sue?


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ctdonath
October 25, 2004, 05:43 PM
There's plenty of discussion about lawsuits which have been filed, "someone oughtta sue", what succeeded or failed & why, etc. What I haven't seen is: how?

How does one file a lawsuit?

My specific case interests include:
- against local police (Buffalo [NY] Transit Authority) for violation of the Firearms Owners' Protection Act and FAA regulations (for an absolutely baseless refusal to allow by-the-book in-cargo transportation of a pistol; incident is audio recorded including a cop's "I am the law" comments)
- against a state university (SUNY) for harassment, unlawful detention, and denial of emergency communications
- against NY to secure civil rights (NY Civil Rights Law #4: "...the right of the people to keep and bear arms cannot be infringed"; contrasted with NY City's outright legal and practical prohibitions on arms possession)
- against USA to revoke 922(o) (prohibition on new machineguns; as a militia member to wit Selective Service I demand my right to purchase a new M4)
- writing a "how-to" guide showing others how to efficiently pursue the previous point (one guy demanding RKBA won't get time of day; 1000 nationwide can force SCOTUS to rule)

Don't tell me "get a lawyer". I don't have the money, but I do have the brains and way-better-than-average knowledge of relevant laws. I'll secure counsel if I deem it appropriate and efficient, but I'll drive the case, not someone with a vested interest in maintaining a system profitable to the legal industry.

Don't get into the merits of the indicated cases. That's for other threads. I listed those just to give a feel & direction for what I'm attempting. Regardless of the content of the cases, I want to know HOW to pursue them.

DO fill me in on where to go, what forms need filing, where to find instructions, how to access relevant legal materials, how much various steps will likely cost, efficent use of counsel where practically vital, etc. On the whole I want to do this myself, but I'm not even sure what building to walk into.

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countertop
October 25, 2004, 05:50 PM
You need to ask three basic questions:

Is there a legal claim?
Do I have legal standing to bring the claim?
Which court is the proper venue?
Does that court possesses jurisdiction over the parties?

Once answered, you then need to draft a clear statement that lays out these points (preferably in reverse order).

At the end, you need to ask for something.

Sign it and head down to the appropriate court house. File it with the clerks office. If your not sure of something, ask the clerk.
Then you need to serve the defendants with a copy of the lawsuit.

Sometimes you can do this by mail (especially with a government agency or corporation), but often times it needs to be personal (if your suing an individual)


Its pretty simple. . . . .

ACORN
October 25, 2004, 05:52 PM
I don't know the names, but I would contact any New York state firearms owner groups. I know that the Virginia organization has been active in cases in that state. If you can't find any names perhaps the NRA could give you names addresses etc. for your local group.

Snake Eyes
October 25, 2004, 06:00 PM
First, get a lance (long wooden stick)
Second, secure a donkey
Third, locate a windmill.

ctdonath
October 25, 2004, 06:02 PM
Long wooden stick (fell out of tree in back yard) - check.
Donkey (well, small four-footed dog) - check.
Windmill (wind energy farm 100 miles down street) - check.

Ready to go!

:D

ctdonath
October 25, 2004, 06:04 PM
Can someone point me to an example initial submission? preferably a collection of them to draw from?

CentralTexas
October 25, 2004, 06:54 PM
Might look here to start....

http://www.nolo.com/

Pilgrim
October 25, 2004, 07:55 PM
Sign it and head down to the appropriate court house. File it with the clerks office. If your not sure of something, ask the clerk.

I wouldn't count on getting much help from court clerks. In the PDRK the court clerks were not permitted to give any assistance with regards to filling out and filing court paperwork.

Pilgrim

Standing Wolf
October 25, 2004, 08:07 PM
First, get a lance (long wooden stick)
Second, secure a donkey
Third, locate a windmill.

Actually, it seems awfully sad to me that so much expertise is required to file a law suit. Once upon a time, the law was accessible to anyone and everyone.

ctdonath
October 25, 2004, 09:27 PM
Well, that's one of my sub-goals: given a narrowly focused case, desireable to many, package it so anyone can just print & follow the directions. In contrast to big expensive one-litigant cases, I'm thinking there's much more power in making a case ("I want my M4") simple & cheap to file so the courts ultimately can't ignore or mis-rule on thousands of separate but identical suits.

jnojr
October 26, 2004, 01:59 PM
Don't tell me "get a lawyer". I don't have the money, but I do have the brains and way-better-than-average knowledge of relevant laws. I'll secure counsel if I deem it appropriate and efficient, but I'll drive the case, not someone with a vested interest in maintaining a system profitable to the legal industry.

No offense, but... you say "I do have the brains and way-better-than-average knowledge of relevant laws" and "I'll drive the case", but you don't even know how to get started.

I applaud your goal, but without competent counsel, you're sunk before you get started. What will you do when all of these entities you're suing hit you with mountains of motions and subpoenas? When they see it's just "little ol' you" suing, that's what they'll do... bury you in paperwork and file motions asking for summary dismissal with prejudice.

You need an attorney. Period. Check with the NRA-ILA, local gun organizations, etc.

countertop
October 26, 2004, 02:13 PM
I wouldn't count on getting much help from court clerks. In the PDRK the court clerks were not permitted to give any assistance with regards to filling out and filing court paperwork.

That hasn't been my experience. Sure, they aren't lawyers, but they can generally tell you what forms need to be filed, they can direct you to the good process servers, and most importantly when your stuck on a legal issue, they can direct you to knowledgable lawyers.

Guntalk
October 26, 2004, 04:22 PM
Going to court without a lawyer is like going to a gunfight without a gun.

Contact the Second Amendment Foundation. They have a database of attorneys who help with Second Amendment cases.

www.saf.org

scottgun
October 26, 2004, 05:00 PM
What's the saying? Those who legally represent themselves have a fool for a client. Nothing personal, but if you want to file a lawsuit, you need a lawyer. It never hurts to become familiar with the laws, but just like with surgery, you better have a professional. Good luck.

Snake Eyes
October 26, 2004, 08:19 PM
Actually, it seems awfully sad to me that so much expertise is required to file a law suit. Once upon a time, the law was accessible to anyone and everyone.
Yeah, and once-upon-a-time firearms meant flintlock muskets and free speach meant hand-set, hand-inked presses.

I understand your consternation, but it ain't that way any more.

Hawkmoon
October 26, 2004, 09:07 PM
That hasn't been my experience. Sure, they aren't lawyers, but they can generally tell you what forms need to be filed, they can direct you to the good process servers, and most importantly when your stuck on a legal issue, they can direct you to knowledgable lawyers.
As with so many things, I guess this is one of those that depend on where you live.

Where I live, the clerks can and will tell you what form(s) you need, and provide you with copies of same. They may not and will not tell you how to fill out the forms, and they cannot and will not recommend attorneys. If you have any questions on how to fill out a form, or prepare a document that's required, they will politely (sometimes) tell you that if you don't know how to do it you should consult an attorney. But they are forbidden to get involved or to provide anything that might be construed as legal advice.

Shootcraps
October 26, 2004, 09:44 PM
You can usually get a consult with an attorney for $50-$75/half hour. Outline what you want to do and see what they say. They will also give you the steps to take on filing the suit.

Don't tell me "get a lawyer". I don't have the money, but I do have the brains and way-better-than-average knowledge of relevant laws. I'll secure counsel if I deem it appropriate and efficient, but I'll drive the case, not someone with a vested interest in maintaining a system profitable to the legal industry.


I've been there and done that (it wasn't my intention of doing that but it was forced upon me) and my ***hole still hurts from the reaming I took. Don't do it.

artherd
October 26, 2004, 10:22 PM
Don't tell me "get a lawyer". I don't have the money, but I do have the brains and way-better-than-average knowledge of relevant laws

With all due respect, if you're posting here asking about how to get started, then I would say you do not have the brains and knowledge of relivant laws to carry this thing off.

Pilgrim
October 27, 2004, 11:49 AM
That hasn't been my experience. Sure, they aren't lawyers, but they can generally tell you what forms need to be filed, they can direct you to the good process servers, and most importantly when your stuck on a legal issue, they can direct you to knowledgable lawyers.

When I was the chief levying officer for the Sheriff, the courts had a clerk who would refer people to a good process server, a retired clerk friend of hers. Said retired clerk, when she worked for the courts, often offered to serve the process herself for a fee no more expensive than what the Sheriff would charge. The problem? The retired clerk did not know how to serve process. She screwed up an eviction case to the point the judge recalled the writ of possession and the property owner had to start the eviction case all over again.

In another jurisdiction, I encountered a court clerk who made "rulings" on whether or not litigants were properly served court documents, rightly the judge's job. Said clerk was so firmly entrenched in her position, the plaintiff in a case I served the documents for came away convinced I did not do my job properly. The petitioner, a woman not represented by counsel, was pissed off at me. It took me about fifteen minutes to explain to the petitioner that I had followed the Code of Civil Procedure when it came to serving her husband in prison her court documents. Had she been more knowledgable, or represented by counsel, she would have insisted on a hearing before a judge and put the clerk in her place.

In my experience, the less complicated the case, the more "helpful" a clerk in court tends to be. Small claims actions are an example. The forms and procedures for pursuing a small claims action are rather simple and straight forward. However, keep in mind that if you proceed in a complicated case with a clerk's advice, you will probably get what you pay for. And don't expect the judge to cut you any slack because you are proceeding without counsel and screwed up your paperwork.

Shootcraps
October 27, 2004, 12:11 PM
And don't expect the judge to cut you any slack because you are proceeding without counsel and screwed up your paperwork.

Exactly right. The judge will simply say you didn't do this, this and this. Rule for the defendant. Next case.

countertop
October 27, 2004, 12:14 PM
Notice I said generally helpful.

They are not lawyers and cannot provide legal advice. Neither are they judges or process servers.

At the end of the day, the burden of making a correct filing still falls on the plaintiff (heck, even hiring an attorney isn't foolproof and if your attorney screws up your still screwed). However, in gathering a basic understanding of the process of filing out the appropriate forms and procedures employed by the Clerks office (which differ dramatically from court to court and may or may not be clearly described in the courts rules of civil procedure) they are a valuable source of information.

Directing you to a process server is much different than offering to assume that role. They know who the local process servers are and they know who the local trial attorneys are.

Cool Hand Luke 22:36
October 27, 2004, 01:07 PM
I applaud your goal, but without competent counsel, you're sunk before you get started. What will you do when all of these entities you're suing hit you with mountains of motions and subpoenas? When they see it's just "little ol' you" suing, that's what they'll do... bury you in paperwork and file motions asking for summary dismissal with prejudice.


Truth.

Most of the Law Schools in your area will have Community Clinic Programs where law students will receive course credit for helping folks such as yourself navigate the legal system, help with filings, and even accompany you to court though not to represent you. It's free and all done under the supervision of a faculty member who: has a JD, is a member of the bar, and is an expert on the local Courts.

That's where you want to start.

Doing it completely pro se is likely to fail.

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