Lessons Learned

(I am not an attorney, and the following is not legal advice)

If you are harmed by another, you have recourse through the courts.  If it’s a criminal offense, it’s up to the state to file charges, with prison as a potential consequence.  If it’s a civil offense, you’ll have to file the lawsuit yourself, with monetary damages as a potential consequence.

When it comes to civil proceedings, you have a choice as to whether you’ll file charges under federal or state law.  Here is my take on the advantages versus disadvantages of state versus federal court:




State Court

  • Cheaper
  • Less formal
  • Locally elected judges – more likely to help
    local constituents.
  • Likely to require courtroom pleadings
    (this is harder for pro se litigants, because you need
    to navigate the rules of the court in real time)

Federal Court

  • Almost all pleadings done in writing – allows
    pro se litigants time to research responses.
  • More expensive
  • Strict rules and timelines
  • Judges appointed for life – more likely to favor
    large litigants

Regardless of what a law says, or how it is written, the courts determine what it means based on prior cases. That means the same law may be interpreted differently in different jurisdictions (i.e. a federal law in Atlanta versus the same law in Los Angeles).

In addition to knowing the laws you’re going to use against your opponent, and the local interpretations of those laws, you’ll also need to know the rules of the court, and the rules of evidence for that court.  Just like any game, if you know all of the rules, you’re much more likely to win.