Study scrutinises self-representation in the legal system

Aug 02, 2013

Some of the potential pitfalls of representing yourself in court proceedings have been illustrated by the case of lawyer Davina Murray this week, a University of Otago PhD candidate studying the topic says.

Bridgette Toy-Cronin's PhD focuses on people representing themselves in civil court cases, including those in Family Court, but many of the issues raised are the same.

"Most people who represent themselves in court do not attract the same level of attention as Davina Murray, or author and Investigate magazine author Ian Wishart, who is currently defending himself, without a , in a defamation case in the Wellington High Court."

Most are lay people in the Family Court or Civil Court cases, and the number is thought to be growing as the government scales back Legal Aid and cost issues force people to litigate themselves.

Self-represented litigants in the Family Court will also greatly increase when the Government's controversial Family Court Proceedings Reform Bill becomes law, making self-representation mandatory in the early stages of many Family Court proceedings.

"My study is timely as it investigates the experience of self-represented litigants currently in the Family Court, as well as the District and High Courts, the barriers they face and any changes they would like to see."

Bridgette is a court lawyer who has practised in New Zealand and Australia. She has a Masters in Law from Harvard University.

"I left legal practice to research self-represented litigants as I think it's a very important issue for the New Zealand ."

"The litigants who go to court without a lawyer are entering a system that was not designed with them in mind."

"There is very little research in New Zealand about who these people are who represent themselves, why they are self-represented and what their experience of the court system is. There is a among judges, court staff and lawyers that their numbers are increasing."

Bridgette's project, for which she is seeking participants who are representing themselves in civil cases in the Family, District or High Court, aims to understand the experience of representing one's self and how the court system can better respond to this.

It will also look at the effect this has on other people in the court system, including judges, staff and opposing parties and their lawyers.

Explore further: Smartphone app used by experimenters to learn more about aspects of morality

More information: www.selfrepresented.org.nz/

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

UK court rules against euthanasia (Update)

Jul 31, 2013

A British appeals court upheld a law against euthanasia in rejecting appeals from two severely disabled men who argued that doctors should be allowed to legally kill them.

Recommended for you

Religious acceptance of homosexuals on the rise

Sep 12, 2014

The willingness of religious congregations to welcome homosexuals as members—and place them in leadership positions—is on the rise, according to a new Duke University study.

Childhood mentors have positive impact on career success

Sep 11, 2014

New research from North Carolina State University finds that young people who have had mentors are more likely to find work early in their careers that gives them more responsibility and autonomy – ultimately ...

User comments : 0