SingleDadJames

Benchbooks and Other Stuff to Help Pro Se Litigants

53 posts in this topic

When reading and trying to contribute to another thread to help all of us fellow pro se litigants I was reminded how much benchbooks can help.

If you don't know what a benchbook is, it's basically a guide, or set of instructions for a judge to follow. I've seen benchbooks be very valuable for outlining common processes and issues that one might encounter in civil court. Many times they even specifically outline how a judge should look at, or rule, in a given situation.Benchbooks (sometimes also called bench guides, judge's guides, etc) can provide valuable insight and an inside look at how the court should, or even MUST, approach a situation.

After you get a hold of and a basic understanding of the rules of civil procedure that apply to your court, I'd highly suggest looking for benchbooks for civil court in your state. You may find Circuit, District, and even COURT specific benchbooks for your state.

I know in MI I was able to come across free downloadable PDF files for many benchbooks. MI has civil, criminal, probate, family, and even evidence benchbooks. They even often breakdown some issues with supporting caselaw to cite! I'll be posting links to some MI specific benchbooks shortly.

Of course not all states are going to have these readily posted or accessible for free download. In fact sometimes detailed benchbooks might be $100-$300 or more. You may need to search a law library etc for a hard copy. The point is you don't know if you don't know they exist or if you don't know to search for them!

Poking around on your State Court or State Supreme Court's website can often reveal these benchbooks and all sorts of handy and useful information. Many times there are free online continuing education resources, orientation publications, and more. Although much of it is aimed at educating judges, attorneys, and court personnel it can be just as beneficial (if not more) to the pro se litigant. It takes time to find and read through them, but if you are serious about defending yourself without an attorney you need to spend a GREAT deal of time educating yourself.

I'd like to invite any and all of you to come back here and post and share any valuable benchbooks or handbooks you may come across for your state.. Hopefully we can work together and list valuable benchbooks and similar resources for many states in one thread!

I'm not providing any of this as legal advice...just passing on links to information for the ambitious do it yourself litigants out there. Neither I or nor Creditinfocenter.com can guarantee the validity of any of the links contained in the posts of this thread. Although they aim to provide useful information, there is a possibility that they contain outdated information etc. It is up to each individual to determine whether they have the current edition or whether the information contained is useful and applicable to their own situation. Like any of the information shared on this site, you must do your due diligence and use any of the info at your own peril!

Also, just a reminder that if you can't SEE or POST a link on here it may be because you are new and don't have the minimum number of posts required to view or post links.

Edited by SingleDadJames
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Here are some links for MICHIGAN. There are links to Benchbooks and much more! I hope it helps decrease time searching for info for some of our MI pro se friends!

MI CIRCUIT COURT CIVIL BENCHBOOK

Michigan Evidence Benchbook (I JUST FOUND this one and LOVE it!)

Michigan Small Claims Guidebook

Michigan also has a "Michigan Judicial Institute" where you can see and access some symposiums, orientation and legal training seminars used by some court personnel. Of course some of it they really don't want you to see is password protected. There are some pretty cool powerpoint presentations on bankruptcy basics etc you can look at.

The following link is a presentation used in a webcast seminar etc to help educate MI court staff on best practices when dealing with litigants representing themselves. It provides some great info on what the court can and can't do with regard to helping a pro se litigant:

http://courts.mi.gov/mji/webcast/2008-09/032509/Best_Practices_combined_for_webcast.pdf

I'm pretty sure I came across more, I'll see what I can dig up later when I have more time! Many of these are available directly or indirectly via a bunch of digging around the Michigan's One Court of Justice website: http://courts.michigan.gov/

Here are some more links to general information that may help decrease search time for MI pro se litigants.

Directory of MI Law Libraries:

http://www.michigan.gov/mde/0,1607,7-140-54504_50206_18639-52451--,00.html

General Info about MI law libraries:

http://www.michigan.gov/mde/0,1607,7-140-54504_50206_18639---,00.html

Michigan State Bar Online Legal Help Center. A site "created to help Michigan citizens find legal information to help them work better with their attorney, and to represent themselves in some instances".

http://www.michbar.org/generalinfo/libraries/selfhelp.cfm

Michigan Consumer Protection Booklet from the State Legislature (PDF):

http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/Publications/ConsumerProtection.pdf

Another Great Michigan Resource:

http://mel.org/SPT--BrowseResourcesLegal.php?ParentId=952

http://elibrary.mel.org/search~S15?/ddebtor+creditor+popular+works/ddebtor+creditor+popular+works/-53%2C0%2C0%2CE/2exact&FF=ddebtor+and+creditor+united+states+popular+works&1%2C59%2C

Edited by SingleDadJames
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Virginia has some helpful benchbooks and other manuals available for free download.

Here is a link to the 2009 edition of theVirginia District Court Judges’ Benchbook

There is also a link for a general District Court Manual for Virginia here:

http://www.courts.state.va.us/courts/gd/resources/manuals/gdman/gd_manual.pdf

Here is a link to the Virginia District Court Forms Manual:

http://www.courts.state.va.us/courtadmin/aoc/legalresearch/resources/manuals/dcforms/districtcourtformsmanual.pdf

They also have a link to a Circuit Court Clerk's Manual for Civil Proceedings:

http://www.courts.state.va.us/courts/circuit/resources/manuals/cc_manual_civil/table.pdf

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Here is a CA benchbook to help guide court officers and help ensure they use best practices when dealing with pro-se litigants. It should give in pro per litigants a good handle on what the court can and can't do. I skimmed through it and it looks like it has some very useful info. Expecially if it may be your first time in court in CA.

"Handling Cases Involving Self-Represented Litigants:A BENCHGUIDE FOR JUDICIAL OFFICERS":

http://www2.courtinfo.ca.gov/protem/pubs/self_rep_litigants.pdf

Here is a free PDF California Small Claims benchbook/judge's guide:

http://www2.courtinfo.ca.gov/protem/pubs/bg34.pdf

Here is a free online continuing education course on Small Clams Consumer law. It covers stuff like contract law, credit etc.

http://www2.courtinfo.ca.gov/protem/courses/sm_claims2/

Here is a pretty cool "Is it Hearsay?" online continuing education presentation for judicial officers. It's free and walks you through the basics of CA hearsay!:

http://www2.courtinfo.ca.gov/protem/courses/hearsay_1/01_01.htm

and here is another one:

http://www2.courtinfo.ca.gov/protem/courses/hearsay_2/launch.htm

Here's a similar online CE course for California dealing with common trial evidence objections and how to deal with them:

http://www2.courtinfo.ca.gov/protem/courses/trial_evid/

Edited by SingleDadJames
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The Utah Bar has a complete set of Benchbooks for each Judical District in the state. Also on this page are links to some valuable documents like"How Lawyers Can Write More Persuasively For Judges".

http://litigation.utahbar.org/benchbooks.html

Very cool. Thanks so much for taking the time to share KentWA! Hopefully some friends in Utah will find it useful!

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The only time I've actually seen the California equivalent to what you're talking about is in a judge's chambers. I had to borrow one in 2009 because of my BofA litigation and then last year I just saw the updated version while trying to sway a verdict in my favor.

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The only time I've actually seen the California equivalent to what you're talking about is in a judge's chambers. I had to borrow one in 2009 because of my BofA litigation and then last year I just saw the updated version while trying to sway a verdict in my favor.

Yeah unfortunately as I've mentioned benchbooks aren't easy to locate in some states. California has alot of benchguides for pretty much everything but general civil issues freely available online:

http://www2.courtinfo.ca.gov/protem/pubs/

There is a CA small claims benchguide available online (which i posted a few posts ago) but not much in the way of general civil district/circuit court.

In my limited search it seems there are cases where these are only available in hard copy in some states. They usually come with a pretty high price tag as well. A law library or judge's chambers unfortunately may be the only option for some.

I certainly wasn't trying to imply benchbooks or judge's benchguides are easy to find in all states.I don't seek to send people on a wild goose chase, but it's definitely worth spending some time searching if you can locate one though!

Edited by SingleDadJames

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As usual, good work SingleDadJames those Michigan links come in very handy. However, I notice the most important bench book of all is missing for debt lawsuits, that being the Michigan District Court where credit card suits under $25,000 are handled. Have you found a bench book for Michigan district court?

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Yeah unfortunately as I've mentioned benchbooks aren't easy to locate in some states.

I was not so lucky to find such benchbooks for AZ.

Googling for "benchbook Arizona" brought me ony "family law" or "domestic violence" benchbooks.

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As usual, good work SingleDadJames those Michigan links come in very handy. However, I notice the most important bench book of all is missing for debt lawsuits, that being the Michigan District Court where credit card suits under $25,000 are handled. Have you found a bench book for Michigan district court?

Yeah I know! I can't find one either. It seems like I remember coming across some sort of District Court Benchbook during my research but I can't find it now. I've looked at so many websites and posts on this stuff in the past year I can't recall for sure, but it seems like it was a PDF benchbook for a specific county's District court. I don't remember it being easy to find. Like I said all the websites are a little fuzzy at this point. If I find one I'll be sure to post the details!

I think if you look through the circuit court benchbook you'll find it basically cites rules of the court, rules of civil procedure etc and explains things that likely apply just as well to District court.

Edited by SingleDadJames

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I was not so lucky to find such benchbooks for AZ.

Googling for "benchbook Arizona" brought me ony "family law" or "domestic violence" benchbooks.

I'm finding pretty much the same thing. Many states don't have them freely available in PDF format and the ones that do, family law and domestic violence definitely seem to be the most common.

I DID find civil jury instructions for AZ which contains links to some helpful info about some types of civil cases. The civil jury instructions on contract law cases might be very useful for anyone facing an alleged breach of contract claim in AZ!:

http://www.myazbar.org/SecComm/Committees/CIJI/raji4.cfm

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You've done an incredible job. Any chance you've run across benchguides for GA, CO, TX or NV?

Thanks! GA is the only state I've searched for out of those you listed.

Here is a link to the Georgia State Court Judge's Benchbook,"GEORGIA STATE COURT BENCHBOOK

Council of State Court Judges"

It includes Civil and Criminal volumes.

I'll try and find something for CO, TX and NV tomorrow and see what I find. I'll post anything useful!

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Once again I'm not finding much in the way of a readily attainable civil benchbook for Texas. However Texas Courts Online does have a publication page with a BUNCH of other other manuals. There are fee schedules, clerk manuals, typical civil caseflow diagrams, pro se specific instructions for filing out civil case information sheets, and a ton of other good stuff:

http://www.courts.state.tx.us/pubs/pubs-home.asp#pubs

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Thanks! GA is the only state I've searched for out of those you listed.

Here is a link to the Georgia State Court Judge's Benchbook,"GEORGIA STATE COURT BENCHBOOK

Council of State Court Judges"

It includes Civil and Criminal volumes.

I'll try and find something for CO, TX and NV tomorrow and see what I find. I'll post anything useful!

Thanks, James for sharing!

When I click on the above link, my Foxit reader opens and I can see the first page, but when I click on any of the links, the next page opens, but I don't see anything. Anybody else having this problem?

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Thanks, James for sharing!

When I click on the above link, my Foxit reader opens and I can see the first page, but when I click on any of the links, the next page opens, but I don't see anything. Anybody else having this problem?

I don't use Foxit..but it works just fine with Adobe's free reader program.

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Awesome stuff SDJ. You are a real blessing to this sight. Keep up the great work you're doing...

p.s. PM sent...

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Great thread. Making it a sticky.

Awesome! Glad to see this is considered helpful enough to be a sticky! I'll definitely be trying to contribute more as time goes by.

Also everyone keep in mind that others can help contribute to this thread too! It doesn't HAVE to be a link to a benchbook...it can be a link to some other sort of useful information to help a pro se!

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Awesome stuff SDJ. You are a real blessing to this sight. Keep up the great work you're doing...

p.s. PM sent...

Thanks Widto!

Most of the info needed to accomplish things as a pro se is out there...you just have to be willing to find it and put in the effort to read through it. Most of the work (especially the first time through) is finding all the information. Hopefully this thread can help others cut down their initial research time.

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There are not benchbooks for all areas, but you can find information here:

http://www.flcourts.org/gen_public/courted/references.shtml

Here is a link to the Foreclosure Benchbook:

http://mattweidnerlaw.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Foreclosure+Bench+Book+-+07-10.pdf

Here is a link to the criminal law benchbook:

http://www.davidsilverman.com/Criminal%20Law%20Bench%20Book.htm

The Florida Attorney General has a website How to Protect Yourself: Debt Collection here:

http://myfloridalegal.com/pages.nsf/main/7cd1ef6dd790c14685256cc900560bd6!OpenDocument

Here is a link to the Pro Se Appellate Handbook:

http://prose.flabarappellate.org/toc.asp

If you are going to trial in Florida you may be interested in the Compendium of Standards of Operation and Best Practices for Florida's Trial Courts which can be found here:

http://www.flcourts.org/gen_public/court-services/compendium.shtml

If you need information from any County Clerk of the Court you can find it on My Florida Clerks:

http://www.myfloridaclerks.com/

There is a central site for Official Records requests at My Florida County:

https://www.myfloridacounty.com/official_records/index.html

Edited by Defendant9

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Thanks Defendant9!

I haven't even gotten into posting much in the areas beyond general civil benchbooks and information that pertain to creditor/debtor cases because that's the central focus of this site..

I'm definitely finding its much more common for courts to have benchbooks and guides on things such as foreclosure, Domestic Violence, harassment, family law, custody, criminal, traffic, DUI, Small Claims, and Landlord-Tenant issues.

These are awesome resources for the pro se who needs help in these areas. Of course, finding general civil or debtor-creditor pro se information generally proves to be much harder in many courts.

Thanks for sharing!

Edited by SingleDadJames
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