Litigants In Person. Going To Court Without a Lawyer.
There is a saying among lawyers – “A person who acts for himself has a fool for a client”.
As an incentive to the world never to go to the Courts without a Lawyer, and perhaps invented by lawyers, the motto could be accused of being merely self-serving. After all, lawyers will charge you money for acting on your behalf.
But really, would you rewire your own house? Do your own Dentistry? If it takes seven or eight year to learn these skills, perhaps it’s a bit arrogant to “do it yourself”?
Nevertheless, there are many people who do take their complaints through the Courts and do so without any Solicitors or Barristers. And because legal aid is so hard to get, and Lawyers so expensive, it happens more and more.
The result of the phenomenon of litigants appearing in court for themselves in person, can usually be expected to be that cases are delayed. The Judges typically do go out of their way to indulge and assist the unrepresented, in spite of the fact that very often their cases are based upon misunderstandings both of the law and of the procedure of the Courts.
And this indulgence is often complained about by other parties to such litigation.
Really, they say, I am paying my lawyers a lot of money to represent me in the Court case, and I am being charged for their time, and yet many extra hours are being wasted because the other side isn’t properly prepared and doesn’t understand the law or the procedure and I am having to pay for this and, the icing on the cake, is the fact that my own lawyers seem to be assisting them.
But there is a case reported – Link Here – in February which underlines that there is a limit to the indulgence the Court will show to such characters.
In Barton – v- Wright Hassell, Barton who was unrepresented by any lawyers, notified the defendants of his claim by email.
There are rules about that. And if Barton had been represented by properly qualified lawyers, they would have served the papers by post or personal delivery within the rules.
In this case, Barton had waited until the very last day that he could serve his claim, then sent it by email. The lower Court threw out his claim because it had not been properly served. But it was now too late to serve it properly. Barton Appealed.
In effect Barton said to the Appeal Court – I am not a lawyer. I can’t be expected to know all the difficult rules of the Court. The defendant have got computers, I sent them an email. They received the email. It contained all the necessary details of my claim. Let’s get on with it.
Or is he in fact saying – because I am ignorant, and have not bothered to research and learn the rules of the Court nor pay someone who does know the rules to act for me, therefore the rules should be relaxed for me?
The Court has told Barton to “sling his hook”.
The decision is, that the Rules of the Court are the Rules. They are not rules which only solicitors and legally qualified persons have to obey but which other people do not. The Judge said “The rules on service are neither inaccessible nor obscure”. If you don’t read the rules, you lose.
As others have said, this decision – that everyone has to obey the rules -, is not in any way restrictive of a litigant in person’s rights. Their rights, like everyone’s rights, is to DO THINGS PROPERLY.
The only problem I have with this eminently sensible resolution, is that the Court’s judgment was a majority decision. Two Judges disagreed. Thankfully, they were in a minority and no one need pay any attention to them.
So well done everybody, The Law Won. Link Here
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