pro se in the news

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Pro se litigants, practitioners and programs have been the subject of several recent articles of note:

  • After winning his pro-marijuana Initiative battle against the city of Sun Valley, Ryan Davidson is asking the Idaho Supreme Court to reconsider their earlier denial of attorney fees.  The high court agreed with Davidson that Sun City did not have the authority to decide whether the Initiative was constitutional.  Davidson is asking for $50,000 in compensation after his two-year battle to get the Initiative on the ballot in Sun City.  He says it is discriminatory not to allow attorneys fees to pro se litigants.  According to the Idaho Mountain Express (“Pro-Marijuana Petitioner Seeks Compensation,” Nov. 29, 2006), Davidson makes the intesting policy point that: “not awarding attorney fees to pro se (non-attorney) litigants can expose them to frivolous litigation from government entities, which would not run the risk of having to pay attorney fees even if they lose a case.”
  • The Salt Lake Tribune helped spread the word about the plight of pro se litigants in Utah, in an article “More people choosing to skip lawyers: Self-representation on the rise, courts want litigants to be more informed” (Nov. 27, 2006).  The article describes the findings of a report by the Utah judiciary.  The report told of the high numbers of pro se litigants, gave demographic information, noted that most self-represented “seemed satisfied” with their court experience, and made several recommendations.  Unfortunately, the newspaper could not resist the temptation to bring out an old cliche, and began the article with the sentence: “If it is true, as the saying goes, that a person ‘who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client,’ then Utah’s courts see plenty of fools.”
  • California superior courts provide Family Law Facilitators to assist persons in family matters who do not have attorneys.  The program at the Santa Maria facilities of the Santa Barbara County Superior Court recently hired experienced attorney Denise Motter as its Family Court Facilitator, and The Lompoc Record gave excellent coverage in an article on Nov. 27, 2006, highlighting Ms. Motter’s background and the many services she offers.

 There are more news blurbs under the fold.

  • Michael Bryant, the Ontario, Canada, Attorney General recently applauded Ontario’s Growing Pro Bono Culture, and announced “New and Innovative Programs to Increase Access to Justice”  (news release, Nov. 16, 2006).  Among other groups, he commended: 

The Advocates’ Society for its plan to bring the French concept of “Maison de la Justice” – House of Justice – to Ontario. . . . 
   

“The program allows people with all kinds of legal issues to get free
expert information and referrals. Experienced lawyers provide one-on-one
guidance so citizens can learn how to access the legal resources and services
they need. Quebec has also piloted the concept, which is used throughout
France.”

  • The District of Columbia Superior Court has taken into account the needs of pro se litigants, in its e-filing program. Though its use is currently voluntary, e-filing will become mandatory for all parties represented by counsel as of February 5, 2007.   However, “If a case includes a pro se party, lawyers may still e-file to the court and e-serve one another. However, service on the pro se party must be by hand or mail.” (DC Bar News, “Superior Court Expands E-Filing to Civil II Cases,” via HALT eJournal, Nov. 28, 2006)

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