May 2001 Pro Se Litigants: The Problem

Pro Se Litigants: The Problem

Judge  Arthur M. Monty Ahalt (Ret.) – May 2001

The explosion of litigation over the last decade cannot be blamed on the legal profession and overzealous lawyers as some would claim. The causes are much deeper and more reflective of the moral and cultural environment of the entire country. Part of the problem can be traced to the increasing diversity and unconnected ness of the countries communities. As the notion of community has disappeared from major population centers people have resorted to the courts to resolve their differences rather than traditional community structures of family, church, and school. Part of this dynamic may also be attributed to a growing desire for privacy and anonymity in major urban population centers.

One needs to look no farther than pro se litigation to discover that the legal profession is not the cause of the communities run to the courthouse to solve almost every problem. Indeed many complain that the legal profession is not meeting the legal needs of the country. Those voices attribute this growing list of unmet legal needs mainly to the overpricing of legal services.

UNMET NEED FOR LEGAL SERVICES

In a speech before the 40th Annual Conference of the American Judges Association in September Roger Warren, President of the National Center for State Courts and a former trial judge captured the countries attitudes when he said, “More than two thirds of those surveyed felt that it was not affordable to bring a case to court. Eighty-seven percent of the respondents indicated that the cost of lawyers contributred ‘a lot’ to the cost of going to court; more than a majority of respondents said that the complexity of the law, and the slow pace of litigation also contributeds ‘a lot’ to the cost of going to court. Forty- four percent felt that the courts were ‘out of touch’ with what’s going on in hteir communities; more than half of the Hispanic respondents, and two=thirds of African-American respondents, felt courts were’ out of touch’ with their communities.

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