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This essay examines the real take on and virtual view on Self represented litigants in the Victorian Law justice system.  For what was observed first hand by myself in various Courts. This paper also acknowledges by research and observation the growing number of self-represented litigants and the impact that development is having on legal service providers and the administration of justice generally.  It discusses the reasons why persons become self-represented, the difficulties they may face and the issues they may cause  Below is a table summarizing my court visit. REQUIREMENTS COURT VISIT 1 COURT VISIT 2 DATE AND TIME OF VISIT   NAME AND TITLE OF JUDGE/MAGISTRATE   TYPE OF PROCEEDING   DETAILS OF LEGAL REPRESENTATION   OBSERVATION ON FOMALITY OF PROCEEDING     From the above cases, it is observed that SRL form they own view of the appropriate role of adjudicators and whether those adjudicators are fairly considering the case.  At times the views formulated do fit awkwardly within the legal paradigm.   As a result, the disparity between how the law defines the role of the adjudicator, however ambiguously, and how some self-represented litigants view that role can lead to a host of issues, including fairness concerns, bias allegations, and hearing management problems. In light of the growing numbers of SRL and recent trends towards more active adjudicators, these issues and views formed are particularly important. In 2000 The family law council observed various possible explanations for increase in SRL, and noted that no single reason could be identified.  However, remains at the top, is changes to legal aid funding and inability to afford a lawyer were recognized as the main reasons for being unrepresented.  No conclusive data’s are available to determine why there are so many SRL flooding the judicial system.1  certain individuals may choose not to be represented this is because many cannot afford representation, or do not qualify for legal aid or may not know they are eligible for legal aid etc.  They may believe that they can run the case without a lawyer, or distrust lawyers. In the hope of making administrative justice SRL is being given a lot of support by the courts, in some instances.  Decision makers do direct SRL’s propelling they matter to come to a fair judgement.  In Arifin v Secretary, Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs 2014 FCAFC 61 (Arifin), the unrepresented appellant failed to comply with rule 36.01(2)(c) of the Federal Court Rules 2011, which required him to state “briefly but specifically, the ground relied on in support of the appeal”.9  Whilst Arifin serves as a reminder that the rules of the court should be equally binding on all parties irrespective of whether or not they have legal representation, the Full Court of the Federal Court in SZRUR v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection2013 FCAFC 146 (SZRUR) confirmed that the courts have an overriding duty to ensure that a trial is conducted fairly and in accordance with the law.10 Magistrate Bourke, at the Magistrate Court Melbourne, who in passing any decision asked relevant questions directly to SRL to get a better understanding of the accused, character, fine paying capability, whether the accused has dependents that may be directly or indirectly impacted by the decision etc.  In the case of Mr. Waymouth, the judge knew the accused personally.  He delighted in recalling the accused father as his high school Footy Umpire and personally related to how the accused may have been impacted by his father’s sudden and tragic death, which could be related to the ongoing offenses including this traffic offense that had bought the accuse to court.    The accused was not only an SRL he also was a known member to the judge.  This made the case very interesting as to how the magistrate would pass the sentence.  In this case the SRL was not asked to stand up when the decision was being made, whereas others represented and or unrepresented defendants stood up.  It is part of the Magistrate court procedure that the accuse stands up as decision are being passed down.  Although there was a great level of leniency in the way the matter was dealt, a little informal as it was.  The decision was as strict as those passed on to others with similar traffic offenses.   Similarly the Magistrate spoke with compassion to all defendants , represented or not . To whom he felt had a chance of turning around and not repeating his/her offense.     Many courts have been reconsidering how they operate, and this can include rethinking the role of the adjudicator in hope of administrative justice.  It is argued that active adjudication is an important tool to promote both fairness and efficiency in administrative justice.  In a number f Courts, the adjudicative model has begun to shift from a more traditional, passive approach to one in which decision-makers more actively adjudicate cases and direct the course of the proceedings.  As seen in Childrens Court, it was obvious to all that the SRL was oblivious to the court proceedings and how and what was required off her. This case was towards the final stage of the matter.  It was supposed to run through a 5-day contested hearing, which to the surprise of all parties, Magistrate Zelmk propelled the case to a final conciliation.  This was in favor of the SRL as she was waiting for her legal aid to be approve and running a contested without representation would have been extremely detrimental in her case.  Weather it was biasness of court procedure or not cannot be identified.  As all parties were happy to attend a final conciliation too.  In speaking with the SRL, she told me that being a SRL is difficult as the Judge can be bias and or uncooperative at times in spite of SRL vocalizing that she is not sure what is required off her and felt she was victimized for this.  This supports the fact that “Self-representation is almost inevitably associated with parties who have poor knowledge of the substantive and procedural law. In disputes involving children, where the parties must present their cases in terms which best promote children’s best interests recent research indicates that self-represented litigants find this difficult to do.2  The National Council of Single Mothers and their Children Inc cited 1999 Family Court research which reported views amongst judges, judicial registrars and registrars that: 81 percent of the self-represented litigants would have benefited from representation; 75 percent of represented litigants would have benefited by the other party being represented; and 80 percent of child interest cases would have benefited from representation. It is seen that both court’s encouraged conferences among parties to reach an agreement to resolve the matter earlier.  The conciliation is often encouraged in many cases, clients really cannot properly put their submissions before the court without assistance from a lawyer due to language, comprehension and fear of the court system.7 In this case and in many instances, this shift arises out of recognition that, without some assistance and direction from the adjudicator, many self-represented parties cannot meaningfully access the justice system.  However, engaging in more active and directive styles of adjudication is not without pitfalls. Adjudicators must walk a very fine line. The jurisprudence tells that although decision makers assist parties so that they can access the legal process, they must not help (or be perceived to help) them too much. Decisions are overturned both because a decision-maker has failed to provide a sufficient level of assistance and because the decision-maker has provided a level of assistance that gives rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias. The challenge is to find the sweet spot that lies between enough help to ensure meaningful access to adjudication but not so much help as to create a reasonable apprehension of bias. As we shall see in the jurisprudence, adjudicators sometimes struggle as they apply legal principles to define their role. Not surprisingly, understanding the role of the adjudicator presents even more of a challenge for the self-represented litigant, for whom the applicable principles can seem both legalistic, but also flexible to the point of arbitrariness.   In conclusion, the adjudicative approach and the setting out of recent developments have led adjudicators to play a more active role in shaping the hearing process and assisting self-represented litigants.  This was achieved with considerable challenge by defining the scope and content of the impartiality obligations in light of these new approaches to adjudication.  Many researches done by the court looking for jurisprudential treatment of bias applications by self-represented litigants and consider whether any trends emerge from this jurisprudence, both in terms of what self-represented litigants perceive to be partial treatment by adjudicators and how these concerns can be addressed.  The way courts can minimize the adverse effects that self-represented litigants have on the justice system are foremost re-prioritizing and targeting legal aid funding and increased use of pro bono schemes .Other suggestions are: improving community information; expanding the duty solicitor scheme; unbundling legal services; increasing the use of lay assistance; and initiatives by the courts.      


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