“A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.”

The origin of that proverb is unclear, but may have been first uttered by an attorney. It may be true in complex cases, but in simple matters there's no reason a person of average intelligence can't prosecute his own case or defend himself if he can compile the evidence, present a persuasive argument, and follow the basic protocols of court procedure.

Lisa Atkins-January apparently did none of those things.

The Port Arthur woman suffered injuries five years ago when she tripped and fell while working for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. In response to her workers' compensation claim, a hearing officer determined that Atkins-January's compensable injuries included  a right elbow contusion, a left elbow contusion, a left hip injury, and a right ankle sprain/strain. 

Two additional, unsupported injury claims were rejected. 

“The credible evidence did not establish that the compensable injury included left knee internal derangement,” the Texas Department of Insurance hearing officer wrote, “and an HNP at L4-L5” (a herniated nucleus pulposus, or herniated disc, between the fourth and fifth vertebrae).

When an appeals panel upheld the hearing officer's decision, Atkins-January filed a lawsuit in Jefferson County District Court, but failed to substantiate her claims. Undeterred, she pressed on, still offering no support for the alleged injuries.

Ninth District Appeals Court Justice Leanne Johnson acknowledged an obligation to construe Atkins-January's pro se brief liberally. “Nevertheless,” she noted, “pro se litigants must still comply with the briefing rules, applicable laws, and rules of procedure.

“Under the Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure, an appellant's brief is required to contain 'a clear and concise argument for the contentions made, with appropriate citations to authorities and to the record.'”

Atkins-January's brief did not meet that standard, which raises the question: Why did she even bother going to court?

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