Thursday, June 28, 2018

New Research Report on Access to Court Transcripts

The National Self-Represented Litigants Project (NSRLP) has published a new research report entitled Is Access to Court Transcripts an Access to Justice Issue?

From a description of the project:
"For SRLs, access to a written (or audio) transcript of their hearing is frequently critical to their effective participation in the justice system. We hear regularly from SRLs who feel that without a transcript, it is simply impossible for them to know what to do next, or how to weigh their options – whether to settle, to appeal, or to prepare for another step in the legal process."
"The reasons for this are surely obvious. SRLs consistently tell us that they find hearings (including case management and settlement conferences) the most intimidating and difficult part of the legal process. They are often operating in a state of high anxiety, typically with little sleep the night before. Without legal training and experience, they understandably, no matter how well-educated or how well-prepared they may be, find it extraordinarily difficult to pinpoint what is most important in what the judge or master has said during the hearing. They often hear terms or expressions that they do not readily understand (...) "
"We found that:
  • The process (and cost) of obtaining a transcript varies widely across the country.
  • Some processes are relatively simple, others extremely hard to figure out (Becky and Kaila spent four months just gathering the relevant information for each province and territory).
  • Transcripts are always costly; some are very costly. And they are not generally included in fee waiver schemes for indigent litigants.
  • Some court hearings in some courts do not offer transcripts.
  • Some appeal processes require the litigant to obtain a transcript of the lower court decision."
"These challenges have a further, unfortunate, but understandable consequence. When they face difficulty accessing their hearing transcripts, some SRLs begin to wonder if there are nefarious reasons behind why this is being made so hard for them, and may come to believe that transcripts are being deliberately withheld. In short, this is yet one more way in which the justice system is unintentionally creating mistrust and reducing public confidence."
The NSRLP, which flows out of the work conducted by Dr. Julie Macfarlane, Faculty of Law of the University of Windsor, describes itself as a clearinghouse for resources, research data, new initiatives, training materials and other information that affects and reflects the SRL phenomenon.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 4:07 pm

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