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How do I Defend or Try a Civil Case without a Lawyer?

  • Bring with you all evidence necessary to prove your claim or your defense.
  • Anything that will help prove the facts in dispute should be brought to Court. This includes written agreements, leases, receipts, and photographs. Originals–not photocopies–may be required.
  • Public Documents must be certified by the agency producing such documents. A certification is a statement that the documents are true copies of an agency's records.
The person bringing the lawsuit in a Landlord/Tenant matter should bring:
  • Original or certified copy of the deed to the building.
  • The lease for the party you are suing, if there is a lease.
  • Certified copies of registration statements.
  • Record keeping books.
  • Any other documents that are relevant to the claims you are making.
  • Witnesses–for example; a superintendent or mechanic who can testify as to attempts to gain access and/or attempts to repair conditions, if conditions are an issue)
The Tenant in a Landlord/Tenant matter should bring:
  • Rent receipts, checks or other proof of rent payments.
  • The lease for your apartment, if you have a lease.
  • Photographs of any conditions you are claiming.
  • Heat charts, if heat is an issue and you kept such a record.
  • Receipts or bills for any money you claim you spent.
  • Any other documents that are relevant to your defense or to the claims you are making.
  • Witnesses–for example; a friend or neighbor who has seen a condition complained of, if conditions are an issue.
Sworn testimony is evidence–including your own:
  • Any witness whose testimony is important to your case may testify in person before the Court. This can be someone who witnessed the events or someone whose special knowledge and experience makes him or her an expert on the cost of the services or repairs that were provided or may be required.
  • A signed and notarized statement cannot be used in the place of live testimony and is not admissible as evidence.
Subpoena (A legal document that commands the person named in the subpoena to appear in Court to testify):
  • If you are unable to get a witness to appear voluntarily or need certain records from a government agency, you may apply to the Court for issuance of a Subpoena.
  • Subpoena Duces Tecum (A legal document that directs someone to produce in Court a written document or record you need).

Note: Either party may apply for a Subpoena before the trial/hearing date. An expert witness may not be compelled to testify by Subpoena, but you may pay the expert witness for coming to Court to testify.

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