Should I Represent Myself?

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This is how one Ontario Court judge recently answered this question:

THE COURT: “…Now, it’s your intention to represent yourself?


THE COURT: Okay. If you haven’t already, you should get a copy of the handout material for self-represented accused. Okay? You can get that from the trial coordinator’s office. It will explain to you how the trial is going to proceed.

Acting as your own lawyer is not necessarily a good idea. You’re entitled to do it. Not necessarily good for two reasons.

First of all, I don’t know whether you have any legal training or knowledge. Okay? So there’s the technical expertise part.

And you may want to think of it this way. Do you ever watch the home improvement shows on television?


THE COURT: Okay, and one of the more humorous ones is called “Disaster” where the people say “yeah, I’m going to fix my bathroom” and it ends up a complete disaster because they lack the technical skills. Okay? So on TV it’s humorous; in the courtroom, less so.

The other thing is that trials work best when people arguing the case aren’t emotionally involved. Okay? It’s like a surgeon operating on your heart. You don’t want her to say: “Oh my goodness, Mr. Thomas has a family and he’s the sole bread winner and I’ve really got to do this job really well. If I don’t, what could happen?” Okay?

You just want the person to go in there, do the cutting and do it effectively and get out. It’s the same with lawyering. It’s best if the person is not emotionally involved because their judgment then is completely pure and clear. Okay? Very difficult if you’re the accused not to be emotionally involved in your trial.

So as I said for two reasons [it’s] not necessarily a good idea to be your own lawyer. But that’s…your choice. You’re entitled to do that.”

The above is an excerpt of pretrial adjournment proceedings in R. v. L. Thomas, dated May 11, 2010, at the Ontario Court of Justice, 1000 Finch Avenue West, Toronto. The presiding justice was the Hon. Paul Taylor.

Mr. Thomas subsequently represented himself at trial on a charge of Refuse to Provide a Breath Sample. He was convicted….by Justice Taylor.