Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pro Se Litigants

You ever wonder about how a pro se litigant can mess up the legal system? What I am speaking of is when some guy gets it in his head that he can argue a constitutional issue better than the professionals. Take, for example, a case that came down today from the Tennessee Court of Appeals that upheld the authority of the City of Knoxville to issue citations for running red lights based upon photographic evidence. You can read the opinion at

So here we are with a major constitutional question being decided by the Court of Appeals based upon a non-lawyer litigant (the city and state were represented by trained attorneys). Surprise, surprise, the court ruled against him and now everyone in Tennessee has to live with the result.

In my mind, this is a major flaw in the system. When an issue is as important as the one in this case, perhaps there should be some mechanism to make certain that the case is well argued and briefed on both sides. In many cases amicus briefs are filed and sometimes amicus attorneys are permitted to participate in oral argument. There were none here.

One can only hope that Mr. Brown secures adequate representation if he appeals to the Tennessee Supreme Court, although if he didn't preserve the right issues in the trial court and the Court of Appeals it may be too late.


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