Pro Se News Roundup

The ABA Coalition for Justice, which focuses on access to justice issues, released a report last week on a recent survey of state trial judges (pdf). The survey was examining the effect of the recession on the number of self-represented, or pro se, litigants in their courtrooms.  We’ve blogged a lot here about the increase in pro se litigation, and thought this would be a good time to round up all our old stories with some new ones.

The ABA Journal wrote a brief article about the survey and its findings, highlighting some of the more distressing news, such as 62% of the judges responding believe that self-representation leads to worse outcomes for litigants. The Washington Post followed that up with an article this week explaining the survey, and reminding readers that a lot of people who might normally be able to get help from civil legal aid resources have been shut out due to organizations facing decreased funding because IOLTA revenues have fallen so far (you can learn more about IOLTA from this earlier blog post).

Back in April we included a story out of Maine in one of our news bulletins, where one judge estimated that fully 75% of litigants appearing in his court are unrepresented. That blurb also had links to stories about Michigan (now requires a paid subscription) and Texas facing similar situations.  We also blogged separately about the situation in Texas. This piece from the Texas Tribune discusses what some courts are doing to try to help pro se litigants – specifically starting self help centers so people can find the necessary information to represent themselves effectively (and not slow down the courts as much).

Finally, last week the Baltimore Sun had an article about a self-help center in the Glen Burnie district courthouse.  The Center is staffed by employees of the Legal Aid Bureau, and while it seems to be quite popular the Bureau and other legal aid offices are already stretched very thin between decreased funding and increased demand. One potential bright spot for law students in all this is that there may be more internship and pro bono opportunities available in these self-help centers as they expand across the country.

2 Comments »

  1. The most disappointing part of this report is that the judges rejected promising solutions such as increased pro se assistance and unbundled legal services in favor of throwing more lawyers at the problem. Whether they are pro bono, paid by the client, or paid by the government, there are not enough lawyers in the country to represent all of the people facing legal issues.

    The only way to provide justice to most people using the legal system is for the courts and bars to allow innovative solutions, including more user-friendly court procedures and allowing consumers a choice between lawyers and non-lawyer professionals when seeking help with their legal matters.

  2. Amanda said

    There’s no doubt that not having a lawyer puts you at a disadvantage. The question this raises for me is one about self fulfilling prophesies… if a judge believes that pro se clients will have worse outcomes what effect does that belief have on the judge’s ruling.

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