Popular Self-Help Clinic Fielded 43,000 Inquiries in ‘07
Posted Jul 15, 2008 12:09 PM CDT
By Molly McDonough
Litigants without lawyers are an increasingly common sight in courthouses across the country.
In San Diego alone, the percentage of family court cases with at least one unrepresented party was 70 percent in 2004. That's up from 54 percent in the early '90s, USA Today reports in an article about self-representation trends.
So it should be no surprise Minnesota attorney Susan Ledray's Hennepin County Self-Help Center is wildly popular. Ledray and her volunteers see 50 to 100 requests for help a day. And last year, her office fielded some 43,000 phone, e-mail and in-office contacts.
"The public is very, very pleased with this service. It helps them feel empowered," Ledray said.
With more and more litigants looking to navigate their proceedings on their own, courts are responding in kind. The National Center for State Courts notes that all 50 states, plus D.C., have centers for litigants choosing to go pro se.
And the need for courts to be perceived as impartial is heightened with so many lawyerless litigants winding their way through the system.
"Both lawyers and judges are rightly concerned about maintaining the appearance of impartiality from the bench when one litigant is pro se and may not be familiar with procedural matters," said Tim Eckley, an attorney with the American Judicature Society.
USA Today notes that self-representation is indeed a challenge for court officials. But, Eckley said, "most judges, most of the time, do a pretty good job."