Center on Court Access to Justice for All
The Fourteenth and Sixteenth Amendments of the constitution guarantee the right of the accused to refuse legal representation and act without a lawyer by proceeding pro se, which is a Latin term meaning “for oneself” or “on one’s own behalf.” With the number of self-represented litigants increasing, especially within domestic relation cases, courts are responding by improving access to justice and making courts more user-friendly by simplifying court forms, providing one-on-one assistance, developing guides, handbooks, and instructions on how to proceed pro se, offering court-sponsored legal advice, developing court-based self-help centers, collaborating with libraries and legal services, and using Internet technologies to increase access. This has not only empowered people to solve their own problems and improve the public’s trust and confidence in the courts, but has likewise benefited the courts through smoother caseflow and increased quality of information presented to judges.
Links to related online resources are listed below. Non-digitized publications may
be borrowed from the NCSC Library; call numbers are provided.
The Center helps judges and courts advance access to civil justice, especially for poor and low-income individuals, by offering resources on 15 strategies and technical assistance. It works closely with the Conference of Chief Justices, the Conference of State Court Administrators and other national court organizations to implement access-to-justice solutions.
Courts are responding to the increasing demands placed on them by self-represented litigants with an ever-widening variety of services and innovations. These services are now more grounded in a detailed understanding of the demographics and needs of the self-represented. It is becoming clear that these changes benefit judges, court staff, attorneys, and both represented and self-represented litigants and improve public trust and confidence in the courts.
On June 11, 2012 Connecticut's Chief Justice Rogers addressed the Connecticut Bar Association regarding the need for more services to assist self represented litigants. She said, "I can assure you that the Judicial Branch will continue to seek effective solutions, and I know that the Connecticut Bar Association and the American Bar Association have, for some time, been discussing ways to confront this challenge." The speech contains factual information on the percentage of self represented litigants in specific case types in Connecticut and several other states.
The California Justice Corps Program is a unique partnership between trial courts and academic institutions that leverages national service initiatives, such as Americorps, to expand court resources, improve service to self-represented litigants, and provide a unique learning opportunity for future legal professionals.
Courts are working with public libraries to provide court-related information to self-represented litigants. The Internet is a key component of this effort.
This article addresses questions posed on how the economic crisis is impacting the need for access to justice, the self-represented, the courts, and programs that respond to the need and what courts can do to ensure that self-represented litigants get the help they need.
This roadmap provides essential and nonessential but desirable components of a successful limited-scope representation program, utilizing successful existing models.
This document is a listing of resources for implementation of access to justice recommendations made to the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators.
Forty-one best practices for court-based programs for the self-represented.
A judicial curriculum developed by the Self-Represented Litigation Network is changing the way judges around the country communicate with the self-represented. A similar leadership package provides state and local court leaders with 15 different solution modules for improving access for self-represented litigants.
This report offers preliminary thoughts on a fundamental redesign of courts, including every aspect of the entire institution, from building design to judicial training, from technology to the clerk’s role.
A national clearinghouse for materials on self representation. NCSC is considered the "host organization" for this project.
This article examines the course of progression courts have made in attempt to increase the access to justice for pro se litigants, arguing that the increase in the self-represented litigant population in the courts is a widespread and continuing trend and one that is reflected in rule changes enacted in the last decades.
This report summarizes the proceedings and recommendations of the Summit on the future of Self-Represented Litigation, which was held in Chicago in March 2005.
A project that looks at the complexity of access to justice for self represented litigants and ways to improve or eliminate the barriers that litigants are confronted with in the court systems.
Courts must serve an increasing number of self-represented litigants—and deal with the problems such inexperienced litigants present. Online document assembly is one way that courts can make life easier for not only self-represented litigants, but also court staff.
Courts' use of Web technologies to aid self-represented litigants is evolving and includes second-generation Web sites geared toward their specific needs, interactive Web sites, online document-assembly programs, e-filing and e-delivery mechanisms, and live-chat features. In the future, the use of both RSS feeds to bring up-to-date content and news to court customers and Wikis to allow justice organizations to collaborate on access-to-justice projects will become more commonplace.
This article presents the experience of Washington's efforts to create a set of principles that would create a balance between the benefits of technology and any effects such benefits would have on access to justice.