Increase in Number of People Representing Themselves in Court

The New York Times published this article on the increase in self representation among individuals in civil cases during the current financial downturn in the economy.

Financially pressed people . . . are representing themselves more and more in court, according to judges, lawyers and courthouse officials across the country, raising questions of how just the outcomes are and clogging courthouses already facing their own budget woes as clerks spend more time helping people unfamiliar with forms, filings and fees.

There is no national system that tracks the number of individuals who represent themselves in court, but in New York

[I]n the first six weeks of this year, nearly 95 percent of litigants in paternity and support cases did not have a lawyer, compared with 88 percent in all of 2008.

And in California

[T]he portion of plaintiffs without a lawyer rose by 22 percent, while defendants representing themselves rose by 36 percent.

This trend has put a tremendous strain on court personnel, and lines at self help centers at courthouses around the country have grown. The article notes that

Courthouse workers also say that people are representing themselves in more complicated cases, involving divisions of complex assets, home foreclosures, houses worth less than a mortgage balance and combinations of these and other problems. Such cases in the past were more likely to involve a lawyer.

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