Government Calls for Public Input on Curing the Boon in Self-Representation
In the past, we have chronicled the perils of self-representation, particularly in the Family Law matters. These down-sides relate not merely to whether the litigant is familiar enough with the law and procedure to ensure that he or she gets a fair hearing, but also concern the added cost, time, and stress that is usually part-and-parcel of a litigant’s decision to avoid hiring a lawyer. Not to mention the resulting delays in the justice system itself, and the added burden on judges and court administration.
Yet despite all the challenges and clear disadvantages, the yearly rise in self-represented Family litigants in Ontario is undeniable.
Apparently, the Ontario government and the Law Society of Upper Canada haven taken notice: They have commissioned a study, headed up by former Ontario Justice Bonalko, that is aimed to decrease the numbers of self-represented Family litigants in the province, which according to their numbers is currently hovering at 57 per cent. The government is also seeking public input on how to help the public access qualified legal representation.
The study will focus on finding “more innovative, accessible and affordable ways to deliver quality justice services”. At the moment, only duly-qualified lawyers are allowed to represent Family litigants, but the study will explore the benefits of using other legal service providers such as paralegals, law clerks and law students for certain types of Family Law matters at least. The goal is to examine, through consultation and public input, how the Family law system could be improved and how alternative service providers could play a role in it, while still being held accountable.
Justice Bonalko will be submitting her report and recommendations to the Attorney General and the Law Society of Upper Canada in the Fall of 2016. The public is invited to read the Consultation document and provide their comments here.
Do you agree that the rise in self-represented litigants needs to be addressed at the government level? What are your thoughts?