California judges get Benchbook for handling pro se litigants


tight rope   We’ve frequently stressed the important (and often difficult) role that judges have in the process of assuring fair access to justice for the self-represented litigant (e.g., here and there).  Attempting to help the pro se party [called pro pers in some western states] understand law and procedure and effectively present their case, while maintaining neutrality toward all parties to a suit, takes agility and skill, and an appropriate temperament. (see our post earlier this week on Ghostwriting in NJ)  Judges in the California court system were given a great tool for understanding and fulfilling this role with the publication of a 245-page guide called “Handling Cases Involving Self-Represented Litigants: A Benchguide for Judicial Officers.” (CA Administrative Office of the Courts, Center for Families, Children and the Courts, January 2007) (via, where members can access the document)

This benchguide covers the following topics, in addition to providing sample scripts to use in many situations:

  1. Self-represented litigants: Who are they and what do they face when they come to court? [note: 450,000 people use self-help resources annually in California]
  2. Expanding access to the court without compromising neutrality
  3. California law applicable to a judge’s ethical duties in dealing with SRLs
  4. Solutions for evidentiary Challenges
  5. Caseflow management
  6. Courtroom and hearing management  JudgeFriendly 
  7. Settling cases
  8. Special due process considerations
  9. Communication tools
  10. Avoiding unintended bias
  11. Addressing litigant mental health issues in the courtroom
  12. Judicial leadership in access to justice

For a document with similar goals, check out How Can Judges Communicate Effectively With Self-Represented Litigants? (compiled by the American Judicature Society, 64 pp. pdf).  Further helpful resources that we have discussed here at shlep include:

1 Comment

  1. shlep: the Self-Help Law ExPress » Blog Archive » Delso ghostwriter update

    March 23, 2007 @ 5:55 pm


    […] A few days ago, we collected a number of major resources on the topic of the judicial treatment of the pro se litigant.  See Californa judges get benchbook for handling pro se litigants (March 23, 2007)   […]

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