DELAWARE COURTS: FAIRNESS FOR ALL TASK FORCE FOCUSES ON
SELF-REPRESENTED CIVIL LITIGANTS
Every day in courtrooms throughout Delaware, individuals in civil cases are representing themselves without the assistance of an attorney. What challenges for these litigants, the court system, and others are created by this situation and how can these challenges best be met? These questions are currently being addressed by the Delaware Courts: Fairness for All Task Force, which was created by the Delaware Supreme Court to make recommendations concerning ways to further assist self-represented civil litigants and to ensure the fairness and the public perception of the procedural fairness of court proceedings. Co-chaired by Chief Magistrate Alan G. Davis and State Court Administrator, Patricia W. Griffin, the Task Force’s membership includes representatives from the Judicial, Legislative, and Executive branches, as well as others familiar with the court system and issues faced by self-represented litigants.
According to Co-Chair Alan G. Davis, “Individual courts have already undertaken substantial efforts to assist self-represented litigants, but the Task Force is looking at an integrated, system-wide strategic approach to the challenges created by the self-representation phenomenon.” “The perception of procedural fairness is an issue that particularly needs to be explored,” adds the Task Force’s other co-chair, Patricia W. Griffin. “Procedural fairness refers to how the public perceives the fairness of the legal process itself, apart from actual outcomes, and has been receiving much national attention recently,” she explains.
The Task Force has been using a variety of methods to examine issues surrounding self-representation. Public hearings have been held in the evening in each county to allow individuals throughout the state to relay their experiences in representing themselves, while separate hearings during the day have been held for representatives of agencies that serve the public. In addition, self-represented civil litigants in the Justice of the Peace and Family Courts, as well as attorneys, judicial officers, and court staff have been surveyed.
The Task Force is currently in the process of reviewing the data it has gathered and considering recommendations. A report is expected to be issued in October.
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