f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

February 9, 2004

NH Report Recommends Strong Program for Pro Se Litigants

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 5:44 pm

A New Hampshire Supreme Court Task Force has released an important set of recommendations for meeting the challenge of the self-represented litigant.   Called Challenge to Justice (Jan. 2004) the Report is notable for both its positive tone and thorough approach to helping the pro se litigant:

As for tone, the Report acknowledges that “They come into their court, on their own, with a conflict or change in their lives, and they expect a resolution. That is their constitutional right,” and that:

All of the suggestions within this report however, are grounded on the single principle that meaningful access to justice in today’s world means a clear recognition by those involved in the system that many of our constituents want to go it alone when they come to court. Our obligation is to give these citizens the help they want, need and deserve.
Here’s an outline of the Task Force’s Findings and Recommendations:

1. EXPANDED LEGAL SERVICES. Because low-income clients lack access to attorneys and are most likely to represent themselves, legal services should be expanded significantly. (See page 8)


2. LIMITED REPRESENTATION. To increase the availability of lawyers, current professional conduct rules should be revised to clearly allow lawyers to engage in limited representation of clients. (See page 10)


3. CASE MANAGERS. Every major court should have one or more well trained case managers to evaluate pro se cases entering the system for possible referral to mediation, the private bar, pro bono or legal services providers and to meet with pro se litigants before their court hearing to prepare the parties and the case for the court. (See page 13) [“Unlike other court personnel who assist these litigants, case managers specifically schedule time to meet with pro se litigants and provide one-on-one assistance to them.”]


4. PUBLIC ACCESS TO INFORMATION. The Judicial Branch and State Office of Information Technology should launch a “Computer in Every Courthouse” project to establish public access computer workstations. (See page 16) An online “Self-Help Center” should be established on the Judicial Branch Website to provide pro se litigants with forms, instructions and comprehensive, user-friendly information about court procedures and available legal services.


5. ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION. The courts should designate a statewide coordinator to oversee alternative dispute resolution programs at all levels of the court system. (See page 19)

6. PROTOCOLS FOR JUDGES AND STAFF. The courts should develop and promulgate written protocols for judges and staff that explain their duties and limitations in managing pro se litigation. (See page 22)


7. SIMPLIFIED RULES. Court rules, forms and procedure should be simplified, where possible, to accommodate self-represented litigants. (See page 26)

Using “Case Managers,” encouraging unbundling, and taking full advantage of the power of technology to assist self-help programs are key factors in achieving the Task Force’s goals. (Thanks to SelfSupport.org for pointing me to this Report)
  • If my alter ego Jack Cliente were still around, he’d probably point out one disturbing aspect of the Report:  Nowhere on the full page of Acknowledgements is the New Hampshire Bar mentioned, nor is any member of the Task Force identified as being a representative of the NHB.   I don’t know if these are oversights or ominous omissions.

2 Comments

  1. […] Note: Rule 1.2 (f) of the N.H. Rules of Professional Conduct sets forth the lawyer’s obligations when engaging in Limited Representation in Litigation, and (g) offers a Sample Form “Consent to Limited Represenation,” as a guide for client and lawyer.  As discussed at f/k/a, the New Hampshire judiciary published a first-rate report on the needs of pro se litigants in January, 2004. Called Challenge to Justice (Jan. 2004), it is notable for both its positive tone and thorough approach to helping the pro se litigant.  A key concept is summarized in two sentences: ”All of the suggestions within this report however, are grounded on the single principle that meaningful access to justice in today’s world means a clear recognition by those involved in the system that many of our constituents want to go it alone when they come to court. Our obligation is to give these citizens the help they want, need and deserve. ” (emphasis added) […]

    Comment by shlep: the Self-Help Law ExPress » Blog Archive » Foster’s savors “a la carte lawyering” in NH — December 3, 2006 @ 9:34 pm

  2. […] The numbers of self-represented parties is very large and growing in courts across our nation.  We must acknowledge, as a New Hampshire Supreme Court Task Force did in its 2004 Report “Challenge to Justice” (discussed here at f/k/a), that pro se litigants ”come into their court, on their own, with a conflict or change in their lives, and they expect a resolution. That is their constitutional right.”  […]

    Comment by shlep: the Self-Help Law ExPress » Blog Archive » MLK and the pro se movement — January 15, 2007 @ 5:26 pm

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