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Representing yourself at DALA

Don't have an attorney? You can represent yourself at a DALA hearing. Learn how.

If you represent yourself in a legal proceeding, it is called Pro Se.  A pro se is one who represents himself as opposed to being represented by an attorney or other representative. Please download the General Jurisdiction Pro Se Guide for more information.

A magistrate, or staff member at DALA cannot give you legal advice or serve as your lawyer or other representative at your hearing. A magistrate or staff member can give you only technical advice, such as advising you which form to submit.

Helpful Information

Ex Parte Communication with the Magistrate: Communicating with a magistrate without the lawyer for the state agency being part of the communication is called “ex parte communication.”  You cannot communicate ex parte with a magistrate – not in person, not on the telephone, and not in writing. 

Sending Copies of All Submissions to the Lawyer for the State Agency:  When you submit documents to DALA, you must do two things.  One, send a copy to the lawyer for the state agency.  Two, when you submit documents to DALA, tell DALA that you have also sent them to the lawyer for the state agency.  Unless you do both things, DALA might not accept your documents.

Following the Rules:  You must follow DALA’s rules.  You can find the rules for pre-hearing matters and hearings starting at 801 CMR 1.01.  “CMR” stands for “Code of Massachusetts of Regulations.”  The symbol “§” means “section.”  You must review and follow these rules, even though you are not a lawyer and do not have a lawyer with you.

Following Time Limits and Orders:  801 CMR has deadlines for various stages of the case.  The magistrate might set additional deadlines for your specific case.  If you cannot meet a deadline, you should ask for a postponement, which is called a “continuance,” with a motion.  If you miss a deadline, your case can be dismissed.

Motions:  A motion is a request.  Filing a motion means to send the request.  A motion must generally be in writing.  All pre-hearing motions must be in writing.  Some motions made during hearings can be oral.  You cannot make motions over the telephone or by showing up in person at DALA and talking to the receptionist.  If you need to extend a deadline, need to reschedule your hearing, need extra time, or, if you need anything else, file a motion explaining what you request and why.

Contact With the Lawyer for the State Agency:  You can negotiate directly with the lawyer for the state agency at any time. 

General Conduct:  During your case, you should be treated in most ways as if you are a lawyer.  You must be prepared, respectful to everyone, honest, cooperative, and on time.  If you disagree with the lawyer or witness for the state agency, you must do so with respect and without disruption.  If you are disrespectful or disruptive, it can hurt your case to the point where it could be dismissed.

Additional Resources for Helpful Information

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