While you may have the right to represent yourself, that doesn’t mean that it’s good idea or that it will accomplish the goals you would like to reach. There are instances where self-representation may even be required such as in civil small claims matters, but in almost any other scenario, it is a poor decision to represent oneself. It is unfortunately very common to see this in Family Law litigation where an attempt to save money and/or resolve matters without an attorney lead to greater costs at a later date if not even worse outcomes which could have otherwise been easily avoided.
The unfortunate reality of the widely televised and recent trial of Darrell Brooks is that it serves as a great example of why you may prefer hiring an attorney over representing yourself in a legal proceeding. Darrell Brooks was convicted on October 26, 2022, of six counts of first-degree intentional homicide and (70) other counts related to the Waukesha Christmas Parade on Nov. 21, 2021. At that parade, Mr. Brooks drove his Ford Escape into a crowd killing six and injuring many more, with his motive remaining unclear. In in a karmic sense, it may be best that Mr. Brooks represented himself, but you may want to think twice about doing so.
“If you think you know so much….[D]id you know that?”
– Darrell Brooks
Mr. Brooks exemplifies this in his widely televised trial, and I’ve pulled out some excerpts to demonstrate why you may want to hire an attorney rather than risk some of the pitfalls presented in this trial:
Failure To Understand Procedure & Law:
Mr. Brooks continually requests the Court to “prove” that it has “Subject Matter Jurisdiction” over him. Procedurally, a Court needs jurisdiction to “hear” a legal acclaim and have the authority to make rulings on that claim. The easiest example is a Bankruptcy Court has jurisdiction authority to hear only bankruptcy cases.
The Wisconsin court in this instance clearly has subject matter jurisdiction as it is the criminal court in the local where the criminal acts occurred which has the authority to render a judgement against the person, Mr. Brooks. This would not be a significant piece of any licensed attorney’s defense or argument in this case, yet Mr. Brooks makes it a reoccurring theme which only served to further frustrate the judge, the audience, jury, and his overall defense.
He also continues to bring up subject matter jurisdiction well after it has been ruled on in a breach of procedure and another misunderstanding of law. The Court in this instant made a ruling as to its subject matter jurisdiction over him at the initial hearing. Because this was already ruled on, any discussion of jurisdiction should have been ended by Mr. Brooks at that time, but he continues to bring it up even in his closing argument.
A licensed attorney would understand that it would be practically impossible to have the ruling changed in the instant trial and that this would be a matter for appeal. This is besides the poor strategic decision a licensed attorney would not make here, in leaving time and goodwill on the table to continue to argue over a matter that has already been ruled on and may only be readdressed on appeal.
Failure To Understand Evidentiary Rules:
There’s an instance in this trial that serves as a good example of basic evidence procedure and a person’s failure to comprehend the rules of evidence and required procedure. Evidence and procedure are tricky for even relatively skilled attorneys and are additional reasons you want to hire a licensed attorney over attempting to resolve these issues yourself.
Mr. Brooks attempts to put photographs into evidence which he likely hoped to use to depict his ex-girlfriend who was a witness at the trial in a negative light. He did not previously provide notice of the use of those intended photographs as exhibits and attempted to bring them out for the first time at trial which is improper and was denied by the judge. This was an extremely basic step of evidentiary procedure and rules that he missed and that a licensed attorney would be unlikely to duplicate.
Unlike TV or the movies, you are not able to provide “gotcha” evidence or witnesses at trial. A licensed attorney knows this and would have submitted the proper documentation in their particular court system to make sure that the evidence could meet the procedural and evidentiary requirements for that evidence to either be admissible or at least have a chance of being admitted.
Failure To Understand Decorum:
This was an easy one with this trial and I invite you to watch some highlight clips on YouTube or google. Becoming overly emotional, rude, curt, argumentative, and aggressive, is not helpful and will almost certainly harm your position. Mr. Books is a great example here of everything you should not do to meet the general standard of decency and decorum that a judge will expect in their court room.
A licensed attorney is more at an “arm’s-length” from the issues you may hire them for and is going to be more capable of maintaining emotional neutrality as a result. This is useful in an emotionally charged case like a criminal matter or a family law proceeding. That attorney will also likely see the same judge again and/or be known in the local legal community so they will have an impetus to maintain professional decorum.
Misguided Strategic Decisions:
Referring back to Mr. Books attempted use of photographs for evidentiary purposes at trial, not only did this strategy fail due to a failure to understand basic evidentiary procedures but it also exposed Mr. Books to making his prior criminal history relevant regarding his having had relations with a minor and having been convicted for that. This would not have come up most likely if he had not tried to introduce those photographs as part of his own defense.
Much of legal representation, trial, and negotiations generally is based on making a strategic call or set of strategic decisions to reach a goal. Obtaining a licensed attorney rather than representing yourself will provide you with a person that will have more experience than you in the specific field, with those specific issues, and who will be better positioned to make assessments regarding strategy as a result.
Bonus: – Sovereign Citizen Ideology & Defenses:
Mr. Brooks consistently makes arguments and defenses based on the ideology and his self-assessment of being a “Sovereign Citizen”. These failed and will always fail and the ideology and the arguments that stem from it have no place within our judicial system and are functionally and logically untenable.
Sovereign citizens roughly believe that the law applies to them when they so choose, and it doesn’t when they don’t want it to. They paradoxically will attempt to use tenuous legal argument and pick and choose application of laws to support their position that other laws do not apply to them. To my knowledge, no such type of claim or argument has ever worked in an American Court, and it did not work for Mr. Brooks either.
A licensed attorney interested in maintaining their license and status within their local community would be highly unlikely to ever make such claims or arguments and highly likely to instead advise someone asserting such claims to let those ideas fizzle out.