Zorza describes pro se trends in state courts


Self-help law guru Richard Zorza (Coordinator of the Self-Represented Litigation Network) has succinctly described “Trends in Self-Represented Litigation Innovation” (6 pp. pdf.) in an article appearing in Future Trends in State Courts 2006, from the National Council for State Courts.

 FortuneCookieF   The article begins with this Future Trends Statement:

Courts are responding to the increasing demands placed on them by self-represented litigants with an ever widening variety of services and innovations. These services are now more grounded in a detailed understanding of the demographics and needs of the self-represented. It is becoming clear that these changes benefit judges, court staff, attorneys, and both represented and self-represented litigants and improve public trust and confidence in the courts.

The Trends article covers the following topics:

–  What is the Emerging Perception of the Significance of the Issue of Self-Represented Litigation?
–  What Services for the Self-Represented Are Becoming Standard?
–  Is the Judicial View of the Self-Represented Changing?
–  What is the Impact on Court Operations Overall and on the Management View of Courts
–  Is There an Emerging National Response?
–  What Is the Key Information-Sharing Resource?  FortuneCookie
–  What Are the Early Products of the Self-Represented Litigation Network?
–  What Are the Important Judicial Education Tools Being Develop?
–  What Are the Important Research Developments and Planned Tools?
–  What Are the Emerging Additional Areas of Significant Interest?
–  What Are the Implications of These Changes for Court and Judicial Leadership? 

The Implications for Leaders are important and worth quoting here (emphasis added):

“Court and judicial leaders are faced every day with the consequences of the flood of self-represented litigants. What is being learned is that with focused attention from good managers committed to an access vision of the courts, the solutions are relatively simple, and less financially and managerially burdensome than might at first appear

“These solutions include the establishment of information-assistance programs to prepare litigants to present their cases, support for discrete task-representation programs to assist those for whom attorney assistance is critical, the use of aggressive case management techniques to identify and support those cases in need of assistance, training in judicial techniques that support access for litigants without lawyers, continued evaluation of the needs of litigants and the success of court programs in meeting those needs, services that support compliance with court orders, and close collaboration with other access-to-justice stakeholders.

Court and judicial leaders who embrace these solutions are finding higher public trust and confidence, more smoothly operating courts, and better relations with stakeholders and the public.”

It is heartening to see that much is being done to educate and train judges for their roles dealing with self-represented litigants.  For example, the SRLN working group on Judicial Education has joined with the California AOC to develop a bench guide for judicial officers on effectively handling cases with self-represented litigants.  “This planned bench guide builds on the experience of judges who have found that there are nonprejudicial techniques for eliciting evidence from all that increase access to justice, and facilitate just results, while maintaining both neutrality and the appearance of neutrality. Techniques include providing a general explanation of how the case will be heard and taking an active role in asking questions of the litigants.”

Comments are closed.

Log in