I very much hope that it will be helpful in freeing judges to take engaged and neutral steps that help ensure access to justice for the self-represented. Remember, before Turner there were those who thought that it was inappropriate for judges to ask questions and take other engaged steps. After Turner we have both the Supreme Court and the Department of Justice saying that it some circumstances it may be demanded by due process. As the article states:
The Supreme Court’s June 2011 decision in Turner v. Rogers1 will greatly influence the judicial handling of civil self-represented litigation. Before Turner, it was not yet fully settled for all whether judges can appropriately intervene in such civil cases. After Turner, the issues are when must they do so, and how they can most effectively do so in the situations in which they are either required or choose to intervene. Lurking behind this changed judicial environment is the Court’s effective endorsement of judicial engagement as helping ensure, and indeed sometimes required to ensure, fairness and accuracy, and to meet the requirements of due process.
It is important to note that while the Supreme Court has not previously visited the civil self-represented courtroom (except to address issues of right to counsel) the approach taken by the court will not be new to those engaged in real world innovaton in this area. Indeed, the article explores twenty nine suggested Best Practices for such engagement, drawn from research and experimentation. Please read the article, and if you find it valuable, share with those who may also find it helpful.
By the way, this article focuses mainly on the simpler situations; a follow-up article, to be published in a subsequent issue of the Judges’ Journal will focus on more challenging situations, such as those in which one side has counsel, or the case involves a full trial, including possibly before a jury.