Three of five people in civil cases are there without a lawyer. Do they all want to be there alone? No, but most have no choice. There are though many good reasons to represent yourself in court. Below are our top 10.
Some might say hefty court fees and high judicial salaries are necessary to the smooth running of the courts. That explanation might be supportable if pro se litigants actually got the justice they pay for. Too often, once a pro se litigant plops down their filing and other court fees, high paid judges, particularly in the federal system, don’t give their cases the time they need. So, pro se litigants have to think hard about whether to pursue or appeal their cases.
Lawyers opposing pro se litigants want it to be one way, but sometimes it’s the other way. Few things warm our hearts more than seeing pro se litigants handle bullying tactics from opposing counsel. A Courtroom5 member shared her experience of being bullied by her opponent’s lawyer. The clapback was strong. She made sure he won’t do it again, at least not to her.
The long-awaited first book from Brian Vukadinovich — Motion for Justice: I Rest My Case — is now available at fine bookstores everywhere. It chronicles his long fight with the U.S. justice system and shines a new light on the biases, unfairness and corrupt motivations of the nation’s courts. It’s a wake-up call for anyone seeking justice in the courts.
To be fair, some lawyers are doing good work to deliver access to justice for all. But the profession as a whole is not. That’s not surprising when you consider the first duty of a lawyer is to fight for a client’s interest above the interests of others.
Courtroom5’s pleas to always take a court reporter to court have found major support in the judiciary. The California Supreme Court recently provided a much needed shot in the arm to indigent and moderate income litigants in Jameson v. Desta. Citing access to justice concerns, the court ruled unanimously that indigent litigants are entitled to free court reporters.
The right to counsel has come to New York City’s Housing Court, where 90% of tenants face eviction without a lawyer. The city will spend more than $90 million each year to ensure a small measure of fairness in these proceedings. Let’s pray the whole country follows suit.
In the Information Age, self-represented litigants are here to stay. One way to keep us from clogging the nation’s courts is to give everyone the same access to the courts that lawyers have. Let us ride in the HOV lane too.
How would you design a judicial system where the primary users were self-represented litigants? Richard Zorza answered that question years ago in his book, “The Self-Help Friendly Court”. New data on our dominant presence in the courts shows his prophetic genius.
Tavis Smiley held a fascinating hourlong discussion with five of the nation’s most distinguished judges on the many ways our justice system is failing us. This first of three scheduled town hall meetings covered differing access to justice for the rich and poor, implicit biases among judges, and rules for blowing the whistle on judicial misconduct.