As I wait on the defense to respond to my amended complaint, I chuckle at how it initially came to fruition. According to the rules of civil procedure: if proper service of a complaint upon a party is waived, one then has sixty days (or ninety if residing outside the United States) from when it was delivered to respond.
On day fifty-four, I received an answer. All the built up anticipation of what I believed would be a long form response filled with various legalese, latin phrases, and laws that may has well been off the books, culminated in the very short rebuttal. Some of which was a critique of my complaint, referring to it as a “ten page narrative.”
In my defense, I assumed lawyers liked to read long documents. And, it was fairly entertaining if I do say so myself.
After digesting (and at that time also chuckling) I sighed softly and went to work. Even if the judge were to say to the defense, “Might I bring to your attention, counselor, that this is a pro se litigant; and unless you were actually expecting this pleading to be professionally edited, I don’t understand why you didn’t categorically answer the claims which I can plainly discern,” ahead of the upcoming pretrial meeting, I amended the complaint and submitted it with the proper motion.
If litigation was a video game, these felt like level 1 moves: amending and respectively motioning. According to the rules (half the battle is understanding the rules) up until a certain point in a case, this can pretty much happen as often as one desires. So, amend I did. Throughout this entire journey, I’m in a constant state of learning. A lot of faux pas I’ve learned from through such hard knock lessons. This would actually be my third version of the [same] truth; just crafted in a much better way.
The first draft, as I look at it now, was disjointed and passionate; but furthermore lacked theories and laws upon which I could build my claims. I was pretty much reasserting my story as if I were telling it to a friend. It was altogether associated with a different case number; and when certain evidence came to light after my claim was filed, instead of amending then and there, I motioned to have the case dismissed without prejudice. This meant that I was able to refile. It was granted, and I had more time based on the statute of limitations.
Draft number two was certainly more organized in the presentation of my claim; I cited the appropriate laws, theories as to how they were infringed, and a chronology of facts. A piece of me felt that it was still in some ways incomplete, but at that time I was ignorant as to what the missing element specifically was. In any event, I submitted it as the official complaint for my rebooted case.
A clerk is instructed to take just about anything, but it is read along the way by someone in the court. Of which, could result in an order for it to be revised based upon their opinion. My complaint wasn’t; and it was served on the defense with the countdown for them to answer now ticking away.
As those days wore on… I went through a roller coaster of emotions. In my worse-case scenario I thought, maybe they were surgically deconstructing my complaint and coming up with an atom bomb of a reply that would instantly result in my case being thrown out. And, to the dismay (or complicity) of the courts, there was nothing that could be done. I would be so wrong upon receiving what amounted to them saying, “Firstly, the plaintiff has the wrong name cited as the defendant. For the record, and we’ll furthermore submit a corporate disclosure, the proper name of the company is XXXXXX. Also, we generally deny everything in here; that is if we bothered to read it. We’re sure the case should be thrown because they didn’t cite their relief or state their claim. But, again…” [shoulder shrug]
Given the court’s handling of the case so far and especially how the judge regarded the attorney at the pre-trial (spoiler: made the attorney look a little foolish) they would’ve been made to categorically answer my averments; had I not jumped the gun.
And jump I did.
Borne from pure frustration after having been, what I felt as, slighted by an attorney who passive-aggressively undermined my complaint (but, in effect, active-aggressively underestimated me), I remixed my pleading once more. Structurally it was the same, but I stripped away all the excessive “narrative” fat. Everything was defined (general averments, jurisdiction and venue, statement of facts, count of charges, relief, prayer, etc.) with no room to be misconstrued. Though not normally used in this particular district, I even went as far as formatting the document with the double border and line numbering off to the left side of the page (which was more of a middle finger to the attorney). This, in effect, caused me to keep all statements within a line or two, and number them accordingly. In the end, that part actually helps everyone out.
It looked… official. I’m a stickler when it comes to anything I write, so I’m sure that I could find things wrong with it (and an experienced attorney could find even more), but it’s the best that ever came through my hands. It had to be; I’d simply replicated what was done on a number of example complaints I’d researched, only replaced with the information as it pertained to my case. Notwithstanding a few enunciation errors and bad tense usage, it was in his language now. And they had less time than before to respond, because it was brought up in the pretrial, and the judge sounded as if it she was going to admit it into the docket that day. Counsel for the defense didn’t get a chance to read it before then, and thereby a little surprised that I’d done it.
I asked him if the 54 days was a strategic move, to which he replied “no.” I looked off to the side for a moment, and then responded with, “Well, it should’ve been. I would’ve made you sweat it out.” Now, whether or not he was telling the truth doesn’t seem to matter to me. Based on what I anticipated their moves to be thus far, contrasted by the reality, there’s no wonder they pit two attorneys against lil ol me…