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Thread: Lawsuits: the other form of self defense

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    Ok, first keep out the personal flame wars. Lets keep this focused on FOIA's, official complaints, and of course lawsuits.

    Not to get off on the wrong foot, I want to offer a disclaimer that is not an anti-cop rant. Do remember that this is THE only reasonable recourse a person has to gain satisfaction for police misconduct, IMHO. The FBI rarely responds, official complaints (my opinion) do not get a meaningful response, and the other options of having a shootout or fist fight is bad for everyone, and almost always worse for the non-cop person involved.

    Ok, so we have all seen cases here of the cops going bonkers over people that open carry, from breaking up your license in Ohio to interrupting a nice buffett dinner in PA.

    What's a person to do if they want to defend their right to defend themselves, and I humbly submit that you should be as aggressive as defending your rights as you should be defending yourself or your family.

    The old ancient western art of self defense known as : I-sue

    Now, conventional wisdom says that for a person to sue, you have to go get a lawyer, pay a retainer, and wait years for the outcome. The end result is that you may get your result, but as the old lawyer saying you can only get as much justice as you can afford.

    Well, while the above is one technique, it is not the only way to go about it.

    Alternatively, it has been offered here to do FOIA type requests, write informational letters to the police chief, do formal complaints against the officers, and show up at town hall meetings.

    With great respect to the individuals that participate in this method of trying to nudge the government along, I don't think it is necessarily the most effective.

    I have found that nothing is more effective at getting the rapt attention of an otherwise faceless and unresponsive agency than a prompt lawsuit and often the best way is to do it yourself. Yes, you can sue and do it yourself or if you want to impress your friends, Pro-se. (Which is latin for "for self")

    Some may balk and again reference more lawyer humor and say that only a fool has himself for a client. I quip that if you want a job right, you have to do it yourself. NOBODY is going to take your interests as seriously as you do.

    The "other side" may think that your case is so weak that you couldn't get a lawyer...then they'll realize "oh crap, he just didn't WANT a lawyer"

    Most lawyers just want to work out a quick settlement, get paid, and move on. You as an individual can cause lots of pain to a city, their lawyers, high ranking officials, and police force for your personal entertainment. Don't punch them in the nose, hit them where it hurts: in the wallet.

    You can make it personal and painful and go after them on principal, which is expensive for them.

    Ok, here are the hitman's rules for success for pro-se lawsuits. Granted, much of this is derived from the Flyingifr method, which is the aggressive form of taking on debt collectors, but the general principles are the same here, and even more important, since while a debt collector can at best take your money, a cop can take your money, property, and FREEDOM for years.

    1. Fight back!!!!!
    There is a general rule in chess that when you are attacked, attack back. The same applies here. Do not take any crap laying down. You need to get it set in your mind, just as if someone slapped your wife in the face with a 2x4, that this is a fight and you are in it to win it. Your battlefield is FEDERAL COURT. Your weapons are the US Constitution, 42 USC 1983, plus any applicable state laws.

    What to sue for? Money! Nothing hurts more than money. Sue everyone involved, the officer personally, the chief, the city, the PD, etc... and let a judge sort it out. You can add on injunctions and court orders for additional training or whatever suits your fancy, but apologies and re-training are cheap and not lasting. A cop pulling overtime for a year to pay off your judgment against him is likely to remember and not repeat the event, ever.

    2. Have Evidence!
    The thing that most pro-se litigants fail from other than not obeying the court's rules is a lack of evidence. If you don't have a voice recorder of some type, stop reading this, right now, go buy one, and familiarize yourself with your states laws on recording public conversations. I can tell you that in most places, recording a PUBLIC conversation is not a crime, but that isn't true for every place, such as Oregon. The recorder WILL be worth its weight in gold if you get some cowboy cop after you.

    I know some might think that the cops have body mic's and dashcam's, so you can just obtain their record of the event in court. Well, I hate to disappoint you, but some of our public servents are less than ethical and these records of significant events have been known to umm...disappear or become otherwise unavailable after lawsuits are filed. You need your own copies!

    General tips for recording are that you probably want to keep the fact that the conversation is being recorded hidden until after you get back to your house and you file suit. If you even think something is going to happen, you see flashing lights in your rear view mirror, switch it on or just have it running already.

    Me personally, I don't want ANYONE to know that the event is being recorded lest they try to illegally seize and destroy the evidence. It has happened, and it won't happen to me. I know lots of people want to spout out "Oh yeah, well this is all being recorded!" to one up the cop, but please resist the temptation. There will be plenty of time to do the happy dance later.

    3. Know the rules of the game.
    OK, you need to know the applicable laws and what rights/protections to trigger to be appropriately situated. Starting from the top down, you need to know the 4th amendment. Cold. You should have a basic understanding of the protections and how to trigger them as you will NOT have time to review this or get any prompting. You need to know the implication of asking "Am I free to go" vs "Am I being detained", RAS vs PC, a consensual encounter vs a detention vs an arrest, and so on. The essence of what I have read is that you need to seek to terminate the encounter, ASAP. If there is any ambiguity, the state will generally win out. If you are on a bus and the cops want to do a random search, get off and ask if you are free to go.

    Know your state laws! Obviously, you need to know your gun laws, where you can carry and such, but recording laws vary state to state, as well as local ordinances, and such.

    Are you in a "stop and identify" state?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_and_Identify_statutes

    I personally think the "flex your rights" series is fantastic and gives most layman a quick understanding of how to react to police encounters. http://www.flexyourrights.com

    I think the other video that is extremely worthwhile is the "never talk to the police" series, which I will slightly disagree with, since you HAVE TO talk to the police in some form to assert your rights, but after that, nothing more needs to be said or should be said.

    http://www.flexyourrights.org/2008_0...or_james_duane

    In this same line of thinking, as I referenced above, the thing that most pro-se litigants screw up on is not following the courts rules. Now, you will have ample time to review them and read up on them, and generally, most judges are forgiving, just don't make a habit of breaking the local rules or rules of Federal procedure. These local rules are on your courts website most of the time. If you have to file, print out a copy and follow them to the letter.

    Oh, that reminds me of where to sue: Federal court and only Federal court. No small claims. No state court. And for the love of god under no circumstanes are you to go to binding arbitration!

    IMHO in Federal, you get the best judges, quickest trial (generally about 9-18 months from start to finish) and the most basic set of rules to know: the Federal rules of civil procedure, standard across all 50 states, subject to local rule additions.

    Federal court costs $350 to file, but it is well worth it for a good judge and largely standard procedures.

    Wikipedia has a great law section to read up on basic things such as what a Federal question is (It is the argument that allows you to get into Federal court, which is essentially that you allege a violation of Federal law like the constitution or 42 USC 1983) and so on.

    Lastly, Federal court rocks out as most Federal courts have pro-se manuals/guides written by the local bar association. I have seen some with definitions, templates, sample forms, a glossery, flowcharts to trial, etc...

    http://www.constitution.org/pro-se/pro-se.htm
    http://www.proselitigant.net <<< (awesome site with example forms written by a real atty. Copy, paste, as necessary)
    http://www.txnd.uscourts.gov/publica...ttyhb_toc.html
    http://www.txwd.uscourts.gov/forms/d...rosemanual.pdf

    I can't list every good guide out there, but if you run across a good pro-se resource feel free to post it. Check http://www.uscourts.gov for your local court and see what they have for pro-se litigants.

    4. Understand thy enemy While cops may claim to be the law or in law enforcement, in truth, laws are enforced in court. That is where punishments are handed out and decisions are made.

    I am not going to argue ANYTHING with a cop on the street. Screw that. If I am in a non stop and identify state, and cop asks for my ID or driver's license, I am going to refuse, and if they claim that they'll arrest me for disorderly conduct, impeding an investigation, or whatever, I am going to place my hands behind my back and say arrest me or am I free to go. Why screw up an awesome lawsuit by muddling the issues and really becoming disorderly?

    You want your case to be as simple as "your honor, I was arrested for not breaking the law"

    then let the officer explain the rest.

    I am not trying to educate ANYONE in law enforcement on the law on the street either. That is done by the man in the black robe in court. To paraphrase a Special Forces officer I knew, "I've found that instruction is best recieved in the front leaning rest position." Similarly I believe officers are best instructed on the legalities in court.

    6. Know thy self Everyone thinks that having a lawyer is such a great advantage, although I will say that if you can get a lawyer to take the case on contingency, that might be the best thing to do. That said, you do have one huge advantage in a lawsuit: You work for free!

    One method of winning is to simply BURY the other side in paperwork, contest EVERYTHING, and make the lawsuit, long, difficult, and painful (ie. expensive).

    7. Basic mechanics
    Ok, here are the basics of any suit. Say you get hassled, roughed up, or arrested for OCing, you are pissed off, didn't do anything wrong, and want some restitution.

    Super.

    Fill out a Summons = Bring your hind parts to court

    and a Complaint = A general description of what happened and the allegations of wrongdoing. What laws where broken, who did what, and what you want in compensation for these actions. FYI, civil rights are EXPENSIVE to violate and usually run from the low 5 figures to easily the mid 6 and even 7-8 figures if someone dies or is badly injured (like paralyzed)

    I am party A. They are party B. They violated laws X, Y, and Z in this manner by doing actions 1, 2, and 3. The jurisdiction is proper because the actions happened here and the people reside here.

    On date whatever, I was minding my own business. Cowboy cop arrested me for no reason. He threatened to kill me if I blinked, took my gun and roughed me up.

    It was wrong, violated the 4th amendment, and I want them to drive up to my house with a boat filled with money as compensation.

    Sign it, mail it, and wait...if they don't respond within the amount

    You'll usually get a phone call 1-2 days after they recieve it, or they might wait until the last day and file a response.

    Lawyers usually take one of two approaches: They either go with the aww shucks, there must have been some misunderstanding...

    or

    I'm going to baffle you with BS and lawyerize you with legaleze! You don't stand a chance, because I'm a LAWYER! Muahahahaha.

    Your response should be in either case: "yeah, that's great, here's some paperwork to fill out"

    The next big thing in the case outside of some initial disclosures (ruel 26) is to go through discovery! Yay!

    Discovery is the really, expensive, painful, drawn out part of the case.

    This is where you are supposed to show each other your cards essentially, swap evidence, and explain your positions.

    What really happens? Everyone discloses only the most basic of info, objects to and tries to hold out on presenting any other evidence and runs up a huge legal bill.

    You write up your interrogatories, which are questions "Why did you stop citizen X on date Y?"

    Admissions: Admit that you had no reason to detain citizen X on date Y"

    and request for production: Produce the all transcripts of police radios for 5 minutes before and after the event.

    They will likely object to most of it, so you file a motion to compel to get a court order to produce this evidence. There will be a hearing to determine what is in and what is out.

    The file a motion to preclude to prevent any of the info they failed to produce from being entered at trial.

    Settlements

    Most cases settle well before trial. Settlements are good because once it is done, it is done. No appeals, reversals, remands, or whatever. Cash the check and you are set. Don't be in too much of a hurry to get to this point, though. Keep hitting them with paperwork until someone (usually an insurance adjuster...) sees the light and if not, you should be ready and willing to beat them down at trial.

    He who asks about settlements first loses is the general rule, so don't you say anything about it first.

    The funny thing about lawsuits is that people often have to spend lots of money before they get into the settling mood.

    Ok, that's it. Don't take abuse from anyone laying down. Fight back and make it hurt.

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    That was awesome.

    + infinity

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    Good information. Very educational. Thanks for the quick course.

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    Regular Member Gunslinger's Avatar
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    Let's not get hung up on 42 USC 1983. 18 USC 242 is much more interesting.
    "For any man who sheds his blood with me this day shall be my brother...And gentlemen now abed shall think themselves accursed, they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap whilst any speaks who fought with us on Crispin's day." Henry V

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    Awesome post.

    One point to be made:

    Going pro-se (representing yourself) has upsides and downsides:


    Downsides:
    A ****-load of work. Think of it as a second full-time job. You will be reading some arcane literature, writing paper upon paper, filing motions, etc. Get ready to bust your rear-end.

    Inexperience. You don't deal with rules of evidence, you don't know the standards of the court, etc.

    Expense. It costs money to do all this.

    Collection of a money judgment. Sometimes the hardest part of the whole deal is actually getting the judgment fulfilled.


    Upsides:
    Payday. You keep the entire amount. Most attorneys want to charge 30% to 50% of any judgment.

    Hired help. You can get an attorney to assist you, if there are parts you are not sure of, or just have questions. Most attorneys charge an hourly rate. Ask to purchase an hour or two of their time.

    Fun. It is work, believe me, but it can be fun, too. There is nothing quite as satisfying as entering a courtroom, know that you are fighting for what is just. Remember how that officer wasn't interested in the law, and just wanted to lord his power over you? I bet he will think about it next time, before trying to use his authority to boost his ego. Payback sure can be a bitch.



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    I agree a whole lot with being your own lawyer. I did a way better job than a lawyer ever would have when I not only beat a ticket, but got a cop in trouble for lying at the hearing. If you get upset and determined, and get obsessed with every detail of the case, and if you are smart enough about laws to really understand gun laws and other laws, you can do a awesome job in court some times. At least I did.
    Answer every question about open carry in Michigan you ever had with one convenient and free book- http://libertyisforeveryone.com/open-carry-resources/

    The complete and utter truth can be challenged from every direction and it will always hold up. Accordingly there are few greater displays of illegitimacy than to attempt to impede free thought and communication.

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    Great thread.

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    Phoenix is right, it does take some time, writing, and you have to do some research. Keep in mind, much of this is online and you can follow the PA Dickson city suit, which was written by a real lawyer and is tracking through the courts.

    It is a lot of furious writing and research then weeks of waiting on the court and the postman and the opposing side.

    I don't think the cost is that bad. $350 to file plus mailing costs. I think collection of a judgment vs an officer or the PD would be very, very easy.

    You also want to be careful about how you get help from a lawyer, since you ARE saying that you are pro-se, you can't have a lawyer draft up stuff for you. Research is one thing.

    I do second the fact that it is quite enjoyable to beat up on people that have wronged you in the past.

    I too agree that if you can decide when/where to carry and when/where to use deadly force, you should be able to research a lawsuit.

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    Regular Member Gunslinger's Avatar
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    You also want to be careful about how you get help from a lawyer, since you ARE saying that you are pro-se, you can't have a lawyer draft up stuff for you. Research is one thing.


    Sure you can. Pro se applies only to courtroom appearances, that is, talking--to be simplistic. You can even have a team of lawyers at your table, if you choose, but represent yourself in testimonial, motions, evidenciary and all other proceedings.
    "For any man who sheds his blood with me this day shall be my brother...And gentlemen now abed shall think themselves accursed, they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap whilst any speaks who fought with us on Crispin's day." Henry V

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    Just wanted to add another data point regarding reckless tazing. I just saw a case about a man who was tazed in his home, like 3 times.

    He lived in the house...apparently somehow a silent alarm was tripped. The cops come to his house in the morning, find him asleep, and start tasing him.

    Nice 100k mistake.

    http://www.pamshouseblend.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=4277

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