“Access to Justice is Access to Information”: Guide to Civil Litigation for BC SRLs launchedNSRLP
Dom Bautista’s Paralegal Litigation Users Group (“Plug 5) has achieved something quite remarkable – a comprehensive walk-through of the civil litigation process in the British Columbia Supreme Court, complete with template forms and documents. The purpose of the Guide is spelled out in its introduction: “To the self-represented litigant, this guide was written for you. It is designed to simplify court procedures in your quest for a legal solution.”
Instead of focusing on the problems that arise from working with SRLs, this group has taken the practical step of equipping them to be more functional in an overwhelmingly complex system that is unfamiliar and intimidating. At their Vancouver clinic for SRLs, Amici Curiae volunteers have watched the rising anxiety of those seeking help as the sessions draw to a close each week: “’Now what?’ they ask silently. Afraid. Bewildered. Anxious.”
The 200 page document is detailed and comprehensive and written in accessible language that provides definitions of key legal terms, explanations of the process, and useful models and examples throughout. It can be accessed and downloaded at http://lawcourtscenter.camp7.org/Resources/Documents/Law%20Courts%20Center%20Guide%20to%20Civil%20Litigation%20for%20SRLs%20in%20BC%20v140925.pdf
The Guide will create important new possibilities for SRLs filing in the Supreme Court of in British Columbia, and empower many with new knowledge and context. At the same time, no matter how well the Guide achieves its purpose – “(I)n the judicial system, you should have the same opportunity to present a legal claim as a person who can afford a lawyer’s services” – its inevitable complexity (and length) is a reminder of just how difficult the civil justice system is for even the best educated among us to navigate. There will be some SRLs for whom the world so comprehensively described and explained in the Guide will confirm their fears – that civil litigation has become an incredibly complex and time-consuming process.