pro se plaintiffs, or, how NOT to bring a lawsuit

A pro se plaintiff pursues a lawsuit, claim, hearing, or other legal proceeding without the aid of an attorney. I’m sure they think themselves an educated, cavalier lot, but most of us who get their cases find them to be nutjobs. It’s not that I can’t empathize with where they’re coming from–after all, attorneys are overpaid assholes; why would anyone want to spend time with one and then hand him/her 33%-40% of your take? Because you look like a jackass if you don’t.

The greatest pro se plaintiff I’ve ever had the pleasure of working against was Douglas Quest. Rather appropriate name, I thought. He was a truck driver who’d fallen out of his vehicle during a long haul to New Jersey and needed a new shoulder.  We started off as BFFs, as I felt a little sorry for him, but he turned on me when he realized I was taping his calls.  Shortly afterward, during a heated discussion, I called him “Doug.”  He got pissed at my informality.  I told him, “Fine, Mr. Quest.  But from now on, you address me as ‘Major’.”
I hung up and then heard laughter erupting in the hallway, as my secretary had told most of the members of our section who was on the phone with me, so when I looked up, there were ten spectators.

“Major?” they asked.
“He was being an asshole.  So, yeah.  Major.”
“Nice.  Do we get to call you ‘Major’, too?”

And so it was that I became addressed by a military prefix in a civilian occupation.  And it still goes on, years later.

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  1. Well, as long as your real last name is not Major, you are ok. Good on you.
    I was in the Navy, last name was Cook. At one point I thought it would be cute to marry some Native American named BottleWasher. I would hyphenate my name and hang on until I became the Navy’s proudest E-7, Chief Cook-BottleWasher. I am weird.

  2. Damn. I always wanted a cool nickname. Like “Thunder” or “Sarge” or “Tinky-Winky”.

    Then again, “tinky-winky” probably wouldn’t get me laid.

  3. Really? All the defendants who represent themselves on TV are geniuses. Thanks for ruining my law shows dude.

  4. I still call you “Mel” in my huskiest voice.

  5. Avat, my Indian name was “Pees in the Wind.” I quickly changed it upon reaching the right age.

    Damon, you’ve got a cool name: Damon! Don’t do the “tinky” thing. Not wise. I’d go with one of the Transformers’ names instead.

    Jeff, you’re right. I must be getting the bottom of the barrel.

    F’head: Mel? Do I look like I cook for a living? I’ll call you “Husky Stan” to match your jeans.

  6. I hate trying cases against pro se defendants, it’s like stepping into a fighting cage with a blind old lady.

    Of course I would sneak up behind the blind old lady and hit her just as hard as I could. No sense taking chances.

  7. oh yeah we get the know it all wanna-be- lawyers in the jail all the time. They sound retarded when they talk about the law or their rights or what’s legal. Like when they complain that they can’t be arrested for public intoxication IN THEIR OWN HOUSE even if the police had to come out three thousand times to settle fights.

  8. staghounds, Thanks for the sound advice!

    jailbird, I’m sure it’s quite entertaining!

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