The increase in the number of pro se litigants has sparked recent innovations by clerks and judges. Just a decade or so ago, pro se litigants had few resources for assistance with their cases. Now, they have many more resources. They can, for instance, make use of court-sponsored self-help sites. The sites feature links to laws, legal forms, pleading builders, and other legal services.
In this vein, Judge Beverly W. Snukals shared her insights about pro se litigants in court and made suggestions for helping the system work better for them.
According to Snukals, “Pro se litigants are a relatively powerless interest group. The group’s lack of political influence results in little being done to remedy the difficulties posed by the rise in self-representation. Membership in the group is typically not by choice but because the individual litigant lacks the money to hire an attorney. The lack of resources significantly limits the group’s ability to garner similar attention from the General Assembly as well-funded groups do. But more importantly, pro se litigants lack group cohesion. Membership in the group ends with the final disposition of the litigant’s case. Without the funds or logistical capability to pool resources and act as an organized group to lobby the legislature, pro se litigants fail to receive sufficient funding and services in comparison with their need.”
Snukals’ suggestions include: (1) unbundling of legal services in which people pay only for services they need; (2) use of self-service centers, pro se litigation clinics, and Internet-based information systems; (3) amendments to laws for unauthorized practice of law to allow court staff to assist pro se litigants; and (4) judicial education that teaches judges how to best handle cases involving pro se litigants.