University of Windsor Law Prof Finds Self-Represented Litigants Going Through "Real Trauma"
University of Windsor law professor Julie Macfarlane is interviewing hundreds of self-represented litigants in Ontario, Alberta and B.C. about their experiences in the family and civil court systems.
As part of her research so far, she has discovered that up to 80 per cent of people in family court and 60 per cent in civil cases represent themselves. This has to do with lower funding for legal aid programs and the greater availability of legal information online.
She explained to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday that many people are having a bad experience:
"Whatever reason, the results are rarely favourable or enjoyable for those who choose to go it alone, according Macfarlane."
" 'I can certainly tell you I’ve heard a few good stories, but the overwhelming majority of the stories from people are ones of frustrations,' Macfarlane said."
"Macfarlane found people who represent themselves 'suffer real trauma' in doing so.She said the process 'overwhelms them'."
"Many people report feeling as if they were treated as second-class citizens and not taken seriously (...)"
"She also found judges can be difficult to deal with, according to reports. 'Judges are accustomed to dealing with legal counsel who are much more familiar with the process. Judges can become exasperated and impatient with self-represented litigants,' Macfarlane said."Earlier Library Boy posts on the topic include:
- Judges Struggling to Deal With Increased Number of Self-Represented Litigants (November 1, 2010): "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 (...)"
- Dealing With Self-Represented Litigants (August 22, 2011): "Precise statistics are hard to come by. Still, in a survey of lawyers attending the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Family Law Summit last June, Queen’s University law professor Nicholas Bala found that 80 per cent of the 167 respondents reported they were encountering SRLs more often."