Date of this Version
Court Review, Volume 51, Issue 2 (2015)
Reliable, consistent statistics on the number of cases with self-represented litigants do not exist. To address this knowledge gap, the National Center for State Courts, supported by a grant from the State Justice Institute, recently designed a reporting framework for state courts to count cases with self-represented litigants. At the most basic level, the framework includes two ways of counting cases: (1) a snapshot of current or last-known representation status at the time of disposition and (2) a retrospective analysis of representation status by party over the life of the case. The snapshot approach can be used by courts whose case-management systems overwrite the representation status of a party each time it changes, while the retrospective approach can be used by courts whose case-management systems keep a record of changes to the representation status of each party throughout the case.
Preliminary data provided by five states show wide variation in the percentage of cases with self-represented litigants (SRLs), underlining the need for more states to report these statistics so that an accurate national picture can be developed. Consistent with anecdotal reports, the data show that domestic-relations cases are more likely than civil cases to have self-represented litigants.