Asked in Civil Litigation for District of Columbia

Q: I am a defendant. I have challenges finding a lawyer as I am not from the USA nor do I reside.

I sent a settlement myself, however, I am unsure of the next steps. How to file an answer, if I have to, and how does the process work after this? Any help would be appreciated.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Kenesha A Raeford
Kenesha A Raeford
  • Columbia, MD
  • Licensed in District of Columbia

A: Your issues here, appear to be multi-faceted. Unfortunately, without further information, the assistance that I can provide is limited. It seems that you are in the early stages of defending yourself in a civil action, in a lawsuit that was initiated in Washington, D.C. Given the information you shared about not being from the U.S. nor based in the U.S., I would highly recommend continuing your search for an established lawyer who is experienced in the industry or practice that is the subject of your case. Defending a lawsuit yourself is certainly an option, but may provide you with the most favorable results depending on the complexity of the subject matter of your case.

The first thing I would suggest is that you look at the heading of the documents you were served and confirm the court where the case was filed. In D.C. that is likely either the: 1) Superior Court of D.C. or 2) U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia.

If you are in the Superior Court of D.C., this court has a few resources on its website for individuals who are representing themselves and also helpful tools you can use to locate an attorney. The website is accessible in a few other languages as well if that is of any use to you. I have copied the link here for your convenience.

If you are in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, this court offers a great online resource center with a self-help handbook and several useful forms and templates you can use to prepare basic documents. For a civil case, you would use, the Pro-Se Handbook (non-prisoner). I suggest reading through the first 10 chapters immediately to acclimate yourself to the court process. Chapter also has resources and information, regarding how to find a lawyer. I have copied that link here for your convenience.

Lastly, if you are sure you will not hire an attorney, you may contact the attorney listed on the signature page (usually the last page of the complaint) of the documents you were served. This may be particularly necessary so that you can explain to them that you are representing yourself, and potentially request an extension to file your answer to the complaint. If you do not file your answer timely you could be subjected to a default judgment, regardless of any settlement offers you forwarded along.

If you do plan to hire an attorney, please utilize the above resources to get in touch with one right away. You should not contact the opposing counsel if you are seriously planning to hire an attorney. Getting an attorney involved as soon as possible is imperative to ensure that your basic legal defense rights remain protected.

I hope that you find the assistance you need to help you defend this case, and understand your basic obligations. Best wishes to you in your search for an attorney!

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