Co-hosts Sonja and Debra Debate New Research

“Who Wrote That Up For You?” co-hosts Sonja Ebron and Debra Slone discuss new research on the characteristics of pro se litigants in U.S. federal courts. Law professors Roger Michalski and Andrew Hammond reviewed the dockets of 2.5 million federal cases over a 10-year period to identify the geographic, demographic, and economic backgrounds of the sizable population of people representing themselves in our courts. Their study, “Mapping the Civil Justice Gap in Federal Court,” was published by the Wake Forest Law Review in June.

The authors note that their findings “present pro se litigants as a radically democratic element in federal courts.” This is supported by data showing the broad diversity of incomes, rural vs urban balance, and ethnicity. Sonja argued that federal courts hear only a tiny fraction of the nation’s civil cases, but these results were likely representative of state courts, as well. Debra took a different view, that there were bound to be differences in the characteristics of state court litigants because the types of claims were different. Regardless, there is a need for more research in this area so that courts and court personnel better understand the people they serve.

Read the study

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