Dismissal of Pro Se Litigant’s Employment Law Case Provides Lesson to Georgia Residents on the Perils of Self-Representation

The need for quality legal representation when dealing with matters such as an Atlanta employment discrimination case cannot be overstated. While a plaintiff does, technically, have the right to self-representation, this is never a good idea.

The same rules, laws, and procedures apply to those representing themselves as apply to professionally trained and highly skilled legal advocates who earn their living in the courtroom. Attorneys spend years learning the law and must take a rigorous bar examination in order to be licensed to represent others in legal matters. The law, including state and federal statutes regarding employment law, is ever evolving, and it can be challenging to keep up with the latest developments even for experienced counsel. Someone who is not professionally educated in the law is at a serious disadvantage.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent federal appellate case was a woman who filed suit against the defendant highway patrol department and her former supervisor, asserting claims for civil rights violations and employment discrimination during events that occurred in 2005 and/or 2006. The trial court dismissed the woman’s complaint, holding that her claims were barred by the statute of limitations, res judicata (two previous lawsuits concerning the same conduct had previously been dismissed), and sovereign immunity. The plaintiff sought review from the court of appeals.

The Appellate Court’s Decision

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims. The court began by acknowledging that it would make an attempt to liberally construe the appellate brief of a pro se litigant (a person who is representing himself or herself in a legal matter) but that this latitude would not go so far as to save a litigant’s claim when he or she had effectively abandoned that legal claim or argument by failing to plainly and prominently raise it in his or her brief to the court. In such a situation, the pro se appellant was to be deemed to have abandoned any claim that was either omitted from the brief or given only perfunctory treatment.

Here, the lower court provided several, alternative, independent justifications for its decision to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint. The plaintiff’s appellate brief merely addressed the dismissal in a general fashion and with regard to the issue of sovereign immunity. The issues of the statute of limitations and res judicata were not adequately raised in the plaintiff’s brief, according to the court. Because the plaintiff had effectively abandoned her challenge to the lower court’s order by not addressing each and every alternative grounds for its dismissal of her complaint, the lower court’s order could not be disturbed on appeal.

Talk to an Atlanta Employment Discrimination Lawyer

It is difficult to fathom why the plaintiff in the case discussed above insisted on representing herself – for well over a decade – in regard to her employment discrimination lawsuit. Retaining an experienced and helpful Atlanta employment discrimination attorney does not have to be a difficult process. The attorneys of Parks, Chesin & Walbert will be glad to schedule a consultation to discuss your case. Just call us at 404-873-8048, and we will set up a time for you to come in and talk to us about your situation. Please do not put off this important call; there are deadlines in these types of cases, and failure to take legal action in a timely fashion can result in a waiver of your claim.

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