Thursday, January 03, 2013

Study Shows Many Self-Represented Litigants Treated With Contempt

Earlier this week, the Ottawa Citizen reported on a research project being conducted by University of Windsor law professor Julie Macfarlane on the experiences of self-represented litigants in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta.

According to Macfarlane's preliminary findings, based on interviews with 280 litigants, one common feature is deep frustration with the judicial system, even emotional trauma:
" 'What has surprised me is how traumatized people are by the experiences they’re having, how many lives are getting wrecked, how much anger and frustration there is out there,' says Macfarlane (...)"

"According to Macfarlane’s research, ... rough treatment by judges is the norm for those who appear in court without lawyers. While there are notable exceptions, most judges believe that 'if you’re a self-rep, you’re a pain in the ass, you’re going to be really annoying, you’re going to be really unreasonable,' Macfarlane says. 'And they get treated with contempt'. "

"As part of her project, Macfarlane interviewed half a dozen lawyers who represented themselves in court. Even they were shocked at how dismissive judges were. 'They couldn’t believe it,' she says. 'It has suddenly taken the blinkers off their eyes'."

“ 'Even if only 10 per cent of what I’m being told is factually correct,' Macfarlane declares, 'it would be really bad. People talk to me, only slightly tongue-in-cheek, about post-traumatic court syndrome'."
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."
  • University of Windsor Law Prof Finds Self-Represented Litigants Going Through "Real Trauma" (June 6, 2012): "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 ..."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:07 pm


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