Recently, I blogged about some numbers derived from NCSC data for representation status and imbalance. The numbers are stunning, here, and here. As I put it then:
We Now Have the Data That shows That The One-Side-Self-Represented Case is the Dominant Case Situation in US Civil State Courts and That We Need a Fundamental Rethink of The State Civil Justice System.
With some additional data generously provided by NCSC, I can now break this out further (methodology here) and show, with this broad urban court national sample, how this imbalance works out in certain case types. This will surely help prioritize strategic planning priorities. These three charts are shockingly self-explanatory:
As an aid to strategic planning here is a blunt comparison of the percentage with an unrepresented person going against a represented one:
Case closed as to need for intervention, redesign, etc.
This imbalance data is so compelling, and a powerful tool for guiding access to justice reform. Thank you for focusing on it in the NCSC data. Our recent study, Lawyers, Power, & Strategic Expertise (http://ssrn.com/abstract=2479857) looking at large sample of unemployment cases in DC finds similar representation levels:
• Neither party represented in 41% of cases; both parties represented in 12.7% of cases, only the employer represented in 36.8% of cases and only the worker represented in 9.5% of cases.
• Workers are represented in 22.2% of cases overall and Employers are represented in 49.4% of cases overall (pie chart on p. 18 of the article).
We also look at win rates based on these imbalance questions. While our study demonstrates only correlation, we unsurprisingly see that having a representative while the opposing party does not (what we call “representation advantage”) correlates to higher win rates for parties on either side of these disputes.
An even more interesting question for the issue of imbalance is that we can see balanced representation in two different ways: when both parties are represented and when neither party is represented. When both parties are represented, the worker (i.e. the less powerful party) wins cases almost 20% more often than when neither party is represented.
Each of these observations suggests important questions for future analysis. We undoubtedly need to understand and address imbalance in representation. And we also need to consider whether balance in (lack of) representation is a different kind of problem that also needs addressing.
Question: how does NCSC define “debt collection”? Would it include cases where a municipality seeks to recover fees and fines? I’m guessing not.
Paula Hannaford-Agor, who is responsible for this work, send me the following reply to your question:
“In the Landscape data, it’s not how the NCSC defined debt collection, but how each of the participating courts in the study defined debt collection in their case management systems. I didn’t have detailed coding books, so have no idea of whether those included municipal fines and fees. I can say that it doesn’t include post-judgment enforcement and we didn’t see collection of fines/fees identified separately.”