What happens when a huge number of people in your state have too much income to get pro bono help and too little of it to hire a lawyer? Leaders in some states might say, “Well that’s just the way things are.” Luckily, wiser states and municipalities are coming up with new and positive ways to address the influx of unrepresented litigants in court. Noting the imbalance of litigation outcomes between unrepresented parties and those with lawyers, New York State recently introduced new plans to better serve pro se litigants.
“Our efforts to find ways for non-lawyers to be of assistance begin in the court-house. As of this month, specially trained and supervised non-lawyers will begin providing ancillary, pro bono assistance to unrepresented litigants in Housing Court cases in Brooklyn and consumer debt cases in the Bronx and Brooklyn. These are courts and case types in which virtually all defendants are unrepresented and are facing serious personal consequences as a result of litigation. It is shocking that in this day and age, over 95 percent of defendants in these critical cases are currently unrepresented. The new court-sponsored projects will offer an array of assistance to eligible pro se litigants ranging from general information provided at help desks and written material to one-on- one assistance, depending on the needs and interests of the litigants. This kind of one-on-one assistance will include providing informational resources to litigants and helping them access and complete court do-it-yourself forms and assemble documents, as well as assisting in settlement negotiations outside the courtroom.”
The full text of the project description is at New York State Announces Innovative Programs to Close the Justice Gap.