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NSRLP, self-represented litigants


This report focuses on decisions that award costs against SRLs: that is, when they are on the losing side. We are interested in whether there is any difference in the way a losing party is treated, and how costs against them are assessed when they are self-representing, as opposed to when they are represented by a lawyer. At NSRLP our attention was first drawn to this issue as a result of our intervention in Pintea v Johns,3 where an SRL who failed to attend two case management conferences was held in contempt and ordered to pay $83,000 in costs (this order was later set aside by the Supreme Court of Canada).4 We have also noticed other judicial comments that suggest that substantial or punitive costs may be seen as ‘warning off’ those who are considering attending court without a lawyer.

While the rationale for awarding substantial or punitive costs is about deterring and/or punishing bad behaviour, SRLs are relatively new to judicial decision-making, and we wanted to begin to interrogate how their behavior in litigation was being evaluated and (in some cases) ‘punished’.

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