Law.com this morning looked at a survey conducted by the Coalition for Justice, an arm of the ABA that focuses on access to the courts, that attempted to measure the impact of the economic recession.
Roughly 1,000 state-level trial judges responded to the survey, which posed questions about their dockets, self-representation and the impact on the courts, the ABA’s press release said. "More than half of the judges stated that their dockets increased in 2009, with the most common areas of increase involving foreclosures, domestic relations, consumer issues such as debt, and non-foreclosure housing issues such as rental disputes."
"Sixty percent of judges said that fewer parties were being represented by lawyers, with 62 percent saying that parties are negatively impacted by not being represented. The impact is exemplified, through a failure to present necessary evidence (94 percent), procedural errors (89 percent), ineffective witness examination (85 percent), failure to properly object to evidence (81 percent) and ineffective argument (77 percent)."
Additionally, comments by judges indicated that pro se litigants do not provide legal research or support for their positions, and that they fail to prepare judgments and orders, or prepare them in ways that are improper or unenforceable.
"The increase in non-represented parties makes this more difficult for courts, too," the ABA said. "The lack of representation has a negative impact on the court, said 78 percent of the judges, and 90 percent of judges stated that court procedures are slowed when parties are not represented."
But the survey felt that the problem was potentially deeper, in fact, than that. "Fifty-six percent (56%) of the judges in the survey, the results showed, "think that the court is negatively impacted when there is not a fair representation of the facts. This is a fairly sophisticated analysis that the court suffers if it cannot properly do its job. Likewise, 42% of judges are concerned that they compromise the impartiality of the court in order to prevent injustice. This may explain why only 62% of the judges say that parties are negatively impacted if the court is trying to prevent such negative impact; however the court suffers in doing so. Also troubling to 26% of the justices is that the court allows an injustice to occur when one of the parties is not able to properly present the valid claims or defense that they might have."
Preliminary Survey Results