Let's discuss the arguments that a pro se litigant, attorneys, and judges make during the course of a legal matter before a court of law.
Pro se litigants need to understand the concept of "argument" because this is usually the intersection where the law and (JSHIT) hit the fan.
Any presentation of a basis in law and fact is meaningless without an understanding of the concept of "argument."
When the layman thinks of arguments, he or she usually resorts to the common thought of making statements leading from a premise to a conclusion. To do this is what leads to many pro se litigants failing to present their case properly. This is because their presentation takes on the form of a "street level" argument and it is lacking in a basis in law to support their facts.
The discourse described above can be said to lack "legal reasoning." Hence, pro se litigants as well as lawyers, and judges must be able to finish or complete this formula: Facts + Laws > Legal Reasoning.
In chemistry a chemist is able to show, by a formula, that the combination of: A + B > AB, so too the pro se litigant must be able to show that their Facts + Laws > Legal Reasoning, and thereby said presentation becomes persuasive.
Blacks Law Dictionary's definition of the terms is not required to understand the two terms of "argument" and "reason." The definition given by Merriam Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary for the terms are as follows:
Argument- 2a: a reason given in proof or rebuttal b: discourse intended to persuade 3b: a coherent series of statements leading from a premise to a conclusion.
Reason- 1a: a statement offered in explanation or justification b: a rational ground or motive c: a sufficient ground of explanation or or logical defense: especially: something (as a principle or law) that supports a conclusion or explains a fact d: the thing that makes some fact intelligible: CAUSE.
Once more I drive home the premise that to take a matter to court you must be armed with a basis in fact and law. Understanding the definitions above we can see why.
Starting with a set of facts, the plaintiff or the defendant has to gather evidence to show that said facts did or did not occur. Then based upon the occurrence or non-occurrence of some facts he or she must state what the law says if a set of facts has or has not happened. Example: if one takes something that doe not belong to him or her, or he has no legal right to take that thing a theft occurs. If he or she can prove that they did not take or had a legal right to take the thing a theft has not occurred.
In the above if a thing is proved to be taken and that the taker lacked a legal right to take the thing the law says that a theft has occurred. Here is where one must get their basis in law correct by referring to the statutes of the jurisdiction that they are in. If I may cross the line and become "long-winded," I will support this and not leave you in the dark as follows.
Using the example above, if one was in the State of New Jersey, the law says:
New Jersey Criminal Code 2C:20-3, Theft by Unlawful Taking or Disposition
- Movable property. A person is guilty of theft if he unlawfully takes, or exercises unlawful control over, movable property of another with purpose to deprive him thereof.
- Immovable property. A person is guilty of theft if he unlawfully transfers any interest in immovable property of another with purpose to benefit himself or another not entitled thereto.
Saving for another post at a later date we will not tread upon the "elements" of an offense here, but I have underlined them above for clarity of this topic. To be prosecuted for a theft of movable property in the State of New Jersey a prosecutor must show that there was (1) movable or immovable property taken, (2) the taking was unlawful, (3) the alleged taker exercised unlawful control over the property, (4) the property was that of another (not his), and that (5) said taking or exercise of unlawful control was done with a purpose to deprive the other. Not so simple now huh?
But stay with me and I can wrap this up and take you back to the argument and reasoning, which is the basis of this post.
Maybe this example can hold your attention, expound on the subject matter, and wrap this post up all at the same time. Mr. and Mrs. Boozer jointly own a house at 101 Main St. Anywhere, USA, this couple also have a rare $3,000 bottle of champagne tucked away. Mr. Boozer's old friend, that he hasn't seen in twenty years stops by and he (Mr. Boozer) decides to crack open that bottle with his friend to celebrate the reunion. They get toasted.
Meanwhile Mrs. Boozer, returns home from running errands and see's the empty bottle on the coffee table, ole dude, whom she can't stand, and her husband knocked out sleep on the couch. She demands that the old friend [FN] get out of her house, and a huge fight breaks out between this couple and she calls the cops alleging that the husband stole a $3,000 dollar bottle of champagne that she paid half for and she want's that ass arrested. What will the arriving police do?
No they shouldn't ask the couple if they have another bottle so that they can taste the evidence to see what $3,000 champagne taste like, and warrant's an arrest for depriving Ms. Booze the benefit of the empty bottle. They will gather the facts and tell her to take the matter to court, where the judge of jury will weigh the facts, because she has admitted that she paid half, and the trier of the facts will want to see proof of payment, hear testimony from both sides as to a binding contract to only partake of the bottle at the same time, and further see if Mr. Boozer deceived the Misses in any way.
Why could this be one scenario to the above? Lets say they were in NJ, where comment to 2C:20-2 Claim of right; theft from spouse says: "As stated in comments to 2C:20-1, to constitute theft, the property taken must be the "property of another." See 2C:20-1h and State v. Mejia, 141 N.J. 475, 495 (1995). If the defendant, in fact, owns the particular property, no theft occurs, and where robbery is the issue, no robbery occurs either. Id. This, however, is so because of a failure of proof. The state has not proven that the defendant took the "property of another." Where the property is "property of another" as defined, however the defendant, sometimes may assert a claim-of-right defense, requiring that the defendant honestly believe in a right to the property."
Lastly to wrap this up, fact, the police upon arriving and hearing the fact could conclude that Mr. Boozer had a "claim-of-right" to the champagne, and although they couldn't get a taste they still could not arrest him based upon applying the law to the facts.
When and if they got their day in court the trier of the fact upon concluding that Mr. Boozer honestly believed that he had a right to crack the champagne with his buddy, regardless of the wife's disdain for his old friend, the case is resolved in his favor and he should recover all cost's of the suit. Now if they ran a tape line down the middle of the house, split the kitchen, refrigerator, and each laid claim to their favorite child is another matter for another day in another court.
When and if the above day in court came, each would again have to show that based upon the Facts + Laws he or she has yielded a legal reasoning that the court finds persuasive to grant the relief sought. So, pro se litigants out there remember it thus, to get your claim you will have to combine your facts with an application of law to yield your legal reasoning for the granting of what you seek. Whew!
Thank you, and I hope this sets you on the right path.