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Handling a Case Yourself

The Latin phrase pro se is used to refer to one who is handling his own case. I do not recommend this because it is very difficult, especially if your opposing party has a lawyer. Imagine walking into a boxing gym for the first time, taping your knuckles, and starting your first match against Mike Tyson. In court, it could feel just like getting knocked out if your opponent has a good lawyer. It has been said, by Abraham Lincoln for example, that “a man who represents himself has a fool for a client.” Perhaps signing up for the People’s Court is a better choice. (Judge Milian is a UM Law Alumna!)

Handling a Case YourselfIf you absolutely insist on proceeding the case by yourself in a civil matter in Miami-Dade County Court, here are some materials that might be of assistance to you. We are not guaranteeing the accuracy, comprehensiveness, or effectiveness of these materials, and are providing them only for informational purposes. By reviewing this material, you acknowledge that Muir & Associates is not representing you in this matter and cannot be held liable in any way for the outcome. We wish you the best of luck, and please don’t hesitate to contact us. We surely can handle any federal civil case that you may have.

You can…

  • Visit the Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts website, and review their materials.
  • Read the Florida Small Claims Rules very carefully.
  • Prepare Complaint found here and summons found here. When complete, make three copies.
  • Take the summons and complaint to an office of the Clerk of Court. (List of locations here.)
  • Pay filing fees, which may include the fees listed here.
  • The clerk issue summons and assign a date for “Pretrial Conference.”
  • Provide summons and complaint to a process server. Muir & Associates uses ProServe USA. (email: jbrady@proserveusa.com, fees range $35.00-150.00) You must serve the Defendant by having the process server take the summons and complaint to the Registered Agent. Once defendant is served at registered agent’s address, found here, obtain an affidavit of service from process server to prove that defendant was served.

And make sure to..

  • Attend pretrial conference, bring affidavit of service. Bring a proof of the amounts you are owed and the attorney’s fees that you have paid.
  • If Defendant does not appear, you will receive a default judgment. (This can easily be reversed so don’t get too excited and if you accidentally miss your pretrial conference, you can also have a dismissal reconsidered or vacated. Florida courts do not like to allow people to lose on technicalities).
  • If Defendant does appear, you will likely participate in a mediation. Mediation is where both parties get together with a neutral third party to discuss a settlement that would be acceptable for both parties. You may settle at the mediation. If you do not settle at the mediation, the mediator will inform the court that there was an “impasse” and your case will be set for trial by the Clerk of Courts.
  • At this point, the matter can go in several directions. If you are against an attorney, the attorney may ask to invoke the rules of Civil Procedure, which would permit them to request discovery and make the process more lengthy.. If so, be sure to submit these required documents before the deadlines. You may want to retain an expert witness or bring other witnesses.
  • You will get a “trial order” before the trial explaining what you need to submit to the judge and opposing counsel. If so, make sure to submit these required documents before the deadlines. You may want to retain an expert witness or bring other witnesses.
  • Attend the trial. Bring documentation and witnesses. Be respectful and patient. Explain to the judge why you think that you are entitled to return on your security deposit. Potentially, bring an expert witness. If you prevail, provide itemized list of costs and legal fees incurred to possibly be included in the judgment in your favor.

For information regarding post-judgment collections, visit here.

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