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NSRLP, self-represented litigants


Approximately a year ago, a NSRLP lawyer-­‐volunteer began to regularly observe hearings that included SRLs (self-­‐ represented litigants) taking place at a busy Toronto courthouse. She reported that she was seeing a number of procedural motions against SRLs. In these cases, she noted, the SRL was usually bewildered and perplexed by what was happening – they had often come to court expecting to present their case for trial – and instead found that they were suddenly facing the dismissal of their action. At the NSRLP, we began to hear from SRLs who described efforts to dismiss their cases using a Summary Judgment Procedure or SJP. Sometimes this also resulted in them being designated as vexatious litigants, barring them from future efforts to use the courts. We were concerned that SRLs often do not understand legal rules and procedures, but were attempting to represent themselves because they could not afford to pay for a lawyer to do so. While their actions and behaviors might have been considered to be vexatious or an abuse of process by system experts, this may have been the consequence of their lack of understanding and general desperation rather than a deliberate effort to disrupt the system. Furthermore, these cases were clearly raising a crisis of confidence in the justice system for these individuals.

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