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Corky v. Petunia: Pro Se Litigants & Lawyers, Evidence & Relevance

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This link from Shlep to the Montana Public Service Law web site (and their June 19th Corky and Petunia story), brings these thoughts to mind.

We in the law librarian community have always served pro se litigants AND lawyers both of whom can get a bit stroppy, but lately I’m seeing more frustration on both sides. They, and the judiciary, need to duke it out themselves (there is only so much librarians can fix), but they can’t say there isn’t terrific information on the web (e.g. here , and here, and here), and in the law library, for both sides. I always recommend to my pro se litigants who plan to “go to court” (traffic court, small claims, jury trial, etc.) that, among other things they need to do, they should make sure to sit in on someone else’s trial or hearing to see what goes on. I’m amazed at how many find that a novel (but good) idea. Definitely a “duh!” But we all have our blind spots (heaven knows I do).

As for those attorneys who are up against pro se litigants. My heart goes out to you but it is an opportunity for you to talk to your colleagues and the court and the bar association to figure out how to make it work. Pro se litigants aren’t going away. Some states offer more help than others to their pro se litigants. In Oregon, there is help in family court cases, but not much elsewhere in the judicial system and most non-attorneys have to rely on the Oregon State Bar and Legal Aid web pages for information (and the law library of course). It’s a public service opportunity waiting for attorneys and judges to take it on.