A Pro Se Appeal on the Rocks

May 1, 2014 § 4 Comments

Matlock was a 1980’s – 90’s tv drama starring Andy Griffith in the eponymous role as a canny criminal defense lawyer who, more often than not, got his clients acquitted. His courtroom victories were usually the result of brilliant investigation combined with ingenious trial tactics.

Perhaps with that heritage in mind, Heidi Matlock filed a pro se appeal charging that the chancellor was in error when he found her in contempt and in arrears in child support for her minor child in the sum of more than $20,000, and restored the child’s birth certificate to his original given name at birth.

Now, with that narrow adjudication at trial, one would expect the issues assigned on appeal to be pretty straightforward, but Ms. Matlock saw the case much more expansively. Her issues for review:

1. Do the actions of Gordon and Nancy Flake constitute a deprivation of civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3)?

2. Can the Plaintiff seek attorney’s fees and court costs under 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b)?

3. Can Gordon and Nancy Flake keep my son against his will, without any permission? (18 U.S.C. § 1201).

4. Why have the Flakes not been arrested for federal kidnapping?

Gordon and Nancy Flake are the paternal grandparents who had custody of the child. The child support action was brought by DHS.

In Matlock v. DHS, Flake and Todd, handed down April 15, 2014, the COA affirmed, pointing out (a) that none of the issues raised on appeal were ever raised before the trial judge, and (b) Heidi cited no authority to support her arguments. Judge Griffis added, “Certainly, this Court does not possess jurisdiction or any authority to consider or address the alleged “federal kidnapping” and federal civil rights violations that Heidi has discussed in her brief.”

Finding no reversible error apparent in the record, the COA affirmed.

Every now and then, someone sends me an email or attempts to post a comment to this blog complaining that lawyers don’t want non-lawyers practicing law because lawyers are protecting their lucrative turf. Cases like this one, however, demonstrate that a person representing himself/herself in a matter such as this can do as serious damage to oneself as a person trying to remove his or her own appendix. And if Ms. Matlock had the assistance of a “shade tree” legal assistant, then that person needs to be held accountable. I’m not saying Ms. Matlock had a meritorous ground for appeal, but even a basically competent lawyer could have advised her about it, and (a) would have assigned grounds for appeal that sounded in the record, and (b) would have cited a case or two, at a minimum, if for no other reason than appearance’s sake.

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§ 4 Responses to A Pro Se Appeal on the Rocks

  • Jane Tucker says:

    I keep getting calls from criminal defendants who have paid a felon, Robert Tubwell, to ghostwrite their “pro se” pcr petitions and now they want a real lawyer to do the “lawyer part”. I explain time and time again that the investigation, research and writing a motion for pcr is considered a lawyer’s job. I don’t seem to be getting anywhere with my crusade to enlighten the public on this matter.

    • Bob Wolford says:

      The reason you’re not making any headway is because the general public, when it comes to legal services payable in advance, is cheap. I don’t negotiate anymore on my flat fee stuff- it is what it is, you can pay it in full or go down the road. And no, I don’t have a payment plan.

  • hale1090 says:

    And then there are those lay persons wanting it to go “their way,” and use their legal “knowledge” gained from the internet to argue & complain about a judge or their attorney, seeking “to change horses mid-stream.”
    About all that can be said is; “Mam, I don’t know enough to have an opinion about your case, and if I offered one, I’d just be meddling.”

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