Study scrutinises self-representation in the legal system

August 2, 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: Judges asked to rule on warrantless GPS tracking

More information: www.selfrepresented.org.nz/

Related Stories

Recommended for you

French teen finds 560,000 year-old tooth (Update)

July 28, 2015

A 16-year-old French volunteer archaeologist has found an adult tooth dating back around 560,000 years in southwestern France, in what researchers hailed as a "major discovery" Tuesday.

Oldest known Koran text fragments discovered

July 23, 2015

Two pages of text written on parchment that are believed to be sections of the Koran (Chapters 18 and 20) have been discovered by a PhD student in a British university library and are believed to be the oldest ever found. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.