A2J Round-Up 2018 – and some wishes for Santa

A short history lesson The courts were originally created to protect citizens from the overreach of the State. Over time, they evolved into a forum for the contestation of claims between individuals, and eventually, corporations and institutions. Independent of the sovereign – and later the legislature – the purpose of the courts is to offer deliberated conflict resolution by neutral experts (judges), whose wisdom and learning in law is trusted by both sides to come up with a fair outcome. For centuries, [...]

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Self-Represented Litigants in the Courts: How They Are Shaping the Jurisprudence

Originally published on Slaw, Canada’s online legal magazine; written by Julie Macfarlane. This is the first in a regular series of columns for Slaw, written by the NSRLP team.  What happens to a system of expert legal adjudication when in some courts, up to three in four litigants are advocating for themselves without the assistance of counsel? The influx of self-represented litigants (SRLs) into the family, civil and appellate courts (family: 50% across the country, up to 80% in some urban [...]

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Feeling the Anger

I understand why so many people are so angry. The legal system in Canada has let down its users, the communities it serves, and its own values of fairness and equality. So many people now experience the courts or lawyers or the law as a club that excludes them, a tight clique that always looks down on them as “outsiders”, and will never see them as equals or peers. Five years ago I wrote a blog called “Fire in the Hole” about [...]

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The Costs of Self-Representation

This week’s guest blog is written by a Self-Represented Litigant, who prefers to remain anonymous. I recently had the misfortune of having to file documentation in my family law case in Ontario. In addition to the trauma of the experience that led me to that moment, I was forced to make a decision about expense – financial vs. personal: I could either pay costly legal fees, or sacrifice my time, collect my emotions, and test my internet research savvy.   The easy (but [...]

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Learning How to Speak to Clients Like Real People

I’ve just finished teaching a new class this Fall. The class is simply called “Clients”. It focuses on six “core” client skills – 1) empathy, 2) advocacy and commitment, 3) counselling, 4) collaboration, 5) “best interests” negotiation, and 6) recognizing the impact of power, gender and culture in the relationship. We explored these six core or universal skills in relation to six client case studies. These were: family law clients; the “primarily self-represented”; corporate clients; victims of sexual violence; clients with [...]

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Continuing the Dialogue, Five Years On

This week’s blog is co-written by Julie and SRL and NSRLP Advisory Board member Jennifer Muller. As 15 SRLs and 45 justice system professionals – lawyers, judges, policymakers, academics, public legal education providers, legal aid directors and more – gathered in Windsor two weeks ago for the second NSRLP Dialogue Event, “Continuing the Dialogue”, the buzz in the room felt very different from a little more than five years earlier when Julie and Sue Rice (NSRLP’s original Project Coordinator) first [...]

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How the Kavanaugh Hearing is an Access to Justice Travesty

At the beginning of this season, I wrote a blog arguing for the importance of framing the A2J debate as a narrative about power – who has it, who doesn’t, and what the consequences are. I could not have imagined that within a month we would be witnessing one of the most remarkable examples of power in action, in a quasi-legal process: the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s nomination hearing for Brett Kavanaugh. The effort to reconcile and adjudicate the conflicting testimonies [...]

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Crazy, Uncontrolled, Bad: How Serena Williams was Punished

The world was riveted by the conflict that descended on the US Women’s Tennis Final on Saturday night. Subsequent days have produced an outpouring of argument over the behaviour of Serena Williams, who was competing for the coveted title against Naomi Osaka. Williams lost after a series of code violations were called against her by the chair umpire, violations that are rarely called (almost never against male players), and which culminated in a forfeited game at a crucial time in [...]

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Inequality and Discrimination in the Justice System

Of the most important life lessons I have learned in the last 35 years, many have been about recognizing inequality and powerlessness. Growing up in a rural island community that presented as 100% white, Christian, and heterosexual, I was unaware of anyone from a different religious or ethnic group, or a different sexual identity, until I went to university – where in 1976, there was just one black student on the campus. Learning about those different from ourselves is never straightforward. [...]

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NSRLP’s Stubborn Hope for Change

As we approach our annual summer office closure (August 9-27), it’s always a good time to reflect on  what we’ve been up to, and what lies ahead. NSRLP now has a higher level of service and productivity on behalf of SRLs and those who work with them than ever before. But … despite our growth, and the emergence of other new programs and services for SRLs, we are still not even close to meeting the needs of those trying to navigate [...]

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