Monday, November 01, 2010

Judges Struggling to Deal With Increased Number of Self-Represented Litigants

This week's issue of The Lawyers Weekly includes the article Judges grapple with unrepresented litigants that quotes Judge François Rolland, chief justice of Quebec’s Superior Court, on the growing and disturbing trend towards self-represented litigants:
"In divorce cases before Quebec Superior Court, 36 per cent of Quebecers are unrepresented litigants, a figure that rises to 42.1 per cent in family matters dealing with child custody and separation. Almost 42 per cent of parties appealing a sentence in criminal matters before Quebec Superior Court are unrepresented litigants while 38.8 per cent of individuals facing a motion that could authorize their psychiatric treatment do not have legal representation (...)"

"Even the Supreme Court of Canada cannot dodge the trend. Approximately 30 per cent of requests to file an application for leave to appeal are lodged by unrepresented litigants, noted Justice Rolland."

" 'Is it by choice or because they cannot afford it — our statistics don’t go so far,' said Justice Rolland at a conference on plain language and the law held in downtown Montreal. 'I would dare to assert that in the vast majority of cases people simply don’t have the means to be represented' (...)"

"But government cutbacks in legal aid coupled with escalating legal fees has made legal representation out of reach for low and middle-class Canadians, giving rise to Rowbotham applications, otherwise known as petitions for the appointment of 'state-funded counsel' in criminal law matters, and ill-prepared unrepresented litigants in civil matters ..."
Earlier Library Boy posts on the topic include:
  • CALL 2007 Conference - Canadian Courthouse Library Survey (May 6, 2007): "Leaders of the Courthouse and Law Society Libraries SIG [of the Canadian Association of law Libraries] unveiled the results of a survey regarding public access (...) 27.6% of libraries have developed resources to assist members of the public in finding legal information or legal advice consisting of prepared printed brochures and research guides. These materials included electronic sources, pathfinders, online forms and Internet sites. 34.5% of the libraries indicated they were involved in access to justice projects with other organizations: training sessions for public librarians and university students, moot court tournaments for high schools or newspaper article series on public legal education ..."
  • CALL 2007 Conference - Public Access to Legal Information (May 7, 2007): "At the 2007 conference of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries being held in Ottawa until Wednesday, there was a session today on 'The Ultimate End User: the Public's Access to Law Libraries and Legal Information'. There were 3 presentations dealing with how law libraries and public libraries can respond to the growing number of self-represented litigants, as well with the generalized growth in the appetite of the public for legal information. "
  • Role of Public Law Libraries (June 24, 2008): "The most recent issue of the AALL Spectrum features an article about what are called public law libraries which are law libraries that serve the general population, including self-represented litigants."
  • British Columbia Launches Clicklaw Public Legal Info Portal (April 29, 2009): "The Public Legal Education and Information Network in the province of British Columbia has launched Clicklaw to provide the general public with legal information and education resources. "
  • CALL 2009 Conference - Research Projects by Members (May 27, 2009): "At this year's session, 2 CALL members presented the results of their research projects. The first was from Kirsten Wurmann of the Legal Resource Centre in Edmonton who presented the results of her study on the role and impact of librarians in the history and development of public legal education practice in Canada. Her paper is entitled The Role and Impact of Librarians in the History and Development of Public Legal Education (PLE) in Canada. "
  • Materials from Austin, Texas Conference on Self-Represented Litigants (April 7, 2010): "The Self-Represented Litigation Network is an open and growing group of organizations and working groups dedicated to fulfilling the promise of a justice system that works for all, including those who cannot afford lawyers and who go to court on their own. The Network brings together a range of organizations including courts, and access to justice organizations in support of innovations in services for the self‐represented (...) Public libraries are critical access points to government institutions. As times get tougher, it becomes more and more important that people have libraries where they can find out how to protect their rights and navigate the complexities of our society. It also becomes more and more important that libraries can show how important and effective they are at meeting this need."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:57 pm


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