Lord Chief Justice: there are too many litigants in person

Family Law|December 1st 2016

Britain’s most senior judge is worried by the number of unrepresented litigants in person crowding courtrooms.

At his annual press conference yesterday (November 30), Lord Thomas, the Lord Chief Justice, was asked by a journalist from the Financial Times whether people conducting cases without legal help had become a “real problem” for judges.

His Lordship admitted that they had become “a problem across the entire system.”

The 69 year-old legal veteran explained that unrepresented litigants were not a  new phenomenon but said their numbers had grown sharply in recent years.

“The problem is we have now far too many. In the Court of Appeal, the cases take up much longer. We have taken steps to try and deal with them… particularly people who have huge quantities of paper and bring them along and we have a very valuable core of judicial assistants.”

Family courts had been amongst the hardest hit following the withdrawal of legal aid for most family disputes he added.

“If you have a dispute about the children, it is obviously desirable that this is settled as soon as possible.”

But mediation only works if the litigants trust the mediator’s judgement, he continued.

“…if someone has lost, they feel, “Well, why shouldn’t we press on?” or they try and solve the thing themselves and what is beginning to emerge, and we need to study this in much more detail, is: is the withdrawal of legal aid causing a problem in resolving dispute between father and mother about the children.”

He added:

“Whether the answer is legal aid or what they do in California, which is to provide a service where there is a lawyer at the court who can speak to both parties, I do not know…”

He called for “detailed examination” of the issues.

Read more here.

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  1. spinner says:

    For a group of theoretically intelligent people it’s amazing how limited the options they present are, it’s almost like they have some kind of self interest to protect.

    The system you have run for X number of years needs a Judge and for each side to be represented separately by at least one lawyer ( solicitor ) but realistically two ( solicitor + barrister ). If you don’t have the required people that the system was setup to require to function correctly, surprise surprise, it’s doesn’t function correctly.

    Does the tax payer want to fund peoples divorce litigation, given that there is always a choice with tax payers money do they want to fund NHS Cancer drugs for kids or divorce litigation. I’m going to take a wild guess here and say most people want to fund NHS Cancer drugs for kids over divorce litigation.

    So with no re funding of legal aid likely and no ideas of any substance or originality coming from the legal profession is it maybe time an outsider took a look into how to resolve this mess ?

    • JamesB says:

      I agree with your last sentence. Lawyer says we need more lawyers isn’t really going to ring loud when there are so many other more pressing and worthy demands on public money, like Social Care to help old people survive for instance. Also he amount of money the NHS spends on drugs is out of order and needs cutting, especially when most countries in the world just ignore the patents (eg South Africa on AIDS drugs), having a bit of knowledge on the subject we should clone or make working alternatives. I have seen the bills for one or two hospitals for one or two quarters and they are astronomically high hundreds of millions of pounds.

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