Self-represented litigants (SRLs) are generally less successful in court than parties with legal representation. Some access-to-justice programs view self-representation as a skill that can be taught and will lead to more success in case outcomes, but Jona Goldschmidt pushes back against this assumption. Goldschmidt argues that even high functioning, educated, and computer savvy SRLs are at a disadvantage in the courtroom when courts strictly enforce rules and do not offer reasonable accommodations.
In this Article, Goldschmidt evaluates three cases that illustrate expert SRLs’ challenges in the courtroom, and he argues that ridged rule enforcement and failure to accommodate lead to a miscarriage of justice in many cases. Building on the Model Code of Judicial Conduct (MCJC), Goldschmidt notes that the language and comments in Rule 2.2 provide a basis for courts to make reasonable accommodations to ensure pro se litigants have their cases fairly heard. Further, Goldschmidt argues the discretionary language of Rule 2.2 should be mandatory. Courts should be required to provide reasonable assistance to SRLs to ensure that all litigants have an opportunity to have their matters fairly heard.
Jona Goldschmidt, Equal Injustice for All: High Quality Self-Representation Does Not Ensure a Matter Is “Fairly Heard,” 44.2 Seattle U. L. Rev. SUpra 75 (2021).
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