An American survey of judges has found litigants harm their chances when representing themselves while also creating inefficiencies within the court system.
The American Bar Association (ABA) released a survey this week (but conducted in late 2009) that found 62 per cent of respondent judges thought that self represented parties hurt themselves, with only three per cent believing the outcomes were better.
Of those who believed parties were negatively impacted by representing themselves, an overwhelming 94 per cent thought it was demonstrated by a failure to present necessary evidence, and 89 per cent thought that parties were affected by procedural errors.
The survey was carried out by the Coalition for Justice arm of the ABA. It included responses from 986 judges spread across 37 state, one Native American Court and Puerto Rico. Two thirds of respondents were from courts of general jurisdiction, 26 per cent from courts of limited jurisdiction and seven per cent from courts of special jurisdiction.
The survey commented that "contrary to popular belief that lawyers slow the wheels of justice, the court views lawyers as efficiency within an adversarial system". Eighty six per cent of judges surveyed thought that the courts would be more efficient if both parties were represented.
There was a trend towards middle class self representation noted by the survey, with 46 per cent of judges noting an increase in self representation among individuals who did not qualify for a court appointed lawyer.
An interesting feature of the survey was the influence of the economy on the types of cases brought before the courts. Just over half of the judges (53 per cent) found that the number of cases increased in 2009. The most common increase was in the area of foreclosures (61 per cent) and domestic relations cases (49 per cent). The survey noted previous studies that had shown a link between a declining economy and the divorce rate.