I Have to Go to Court, and I’m So Confused!
How to Help the Self-Represented Litigant
Beyond Hope Conference June 2015
Janet Freeman and Evelyn Lindsay, Courthouse Libraries BC
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Goals of this workshop
By the end of this workshop, you will be able to:
 Identify the challenges faced by a self-represented litigant
 Explain how to approach legal research
 Recommend a wide range of legal research tools to your patrons by
referring to the Beginner’s Guide to Finding Legal Information.
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Overview
 Introductions
 The Self-Represented Litigant
 Beginner’s Guide to Finding Legal Information - a Clicklaw
Wikibook.
 Sample legal research questions
 Questions and discussion
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Workshop handouts: go to bclawmatters.ca
Click on Conference Materials link:
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Courthouse Libraries BC helps both lawyers and the
public find and use legal information. There are 4
programs that help the public:
A website with plain
language legal info
Online resources that are
frequently updated and can be
printed
Helps public libraries provide
current legal information
CLBC website and legal
reference assistance
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What
Can Help With
 Law books and legal databases
on public computers with case
law, legislation and
information about legal
procedures.
 Assistance from law librarians
in-person, via telephone at
1.800.665.2570, and email:
[email protected]
 Website courthouselibrary.ca
features legal information
aimed at legal community
 Libraries in 28
BCCourthouses
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Rise in public’s use of
Questions from the public:
 30% of total in 2007
 49% of total in 2014
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The Self Represented Litigant
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disintermediation
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From the National
Self-Represented Litigants Project (NSRLP)
www.representingyourselfcanada.com
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NSRLP research findings on challenges
of SRL’s:
 “(Representing yourself) is like going as an agnostic to a religious
court.”
 SRL’s want to be treated as a real participant in the justice system,
and not just as a nuisance who is getting in the way of the
professionals
 Many rules do not make intuitive sense to a layperson
 Huge amount of time involved, and cost of filing fees. Lawyers can
cost $350/hour. Many SRL’s start with a lawyer, but run out of
funds.
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The Beginner’s Guide to Finding Legal
Information Clicklaw Wikibook
http://bit.ly/1IYoD8K
 * Currently in draft mode, more
edits to come
The Beginner’s Guide
to Finding Legal Information
 Looking for feedback,
suggestions to improve
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Clicklaw Wikibooks wiki.clicklaw.bc.ca
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Features of Clicklaw Wikibooks
 Online version updated frequently
 Fully searchable
 Available in a variety of formats: online wiki, PDF
and EPUB
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Example of an online self-help guide
smallclaimsbc.ca
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Sample question #1: How do I file for bankruptcy,
and how would RRSPs affect my application?
Using the Guide’s legal information pathway:
•
First step: Search Clicklaw resources under the key word bankruptcy, or try the
common question “I’m thinking about declaring bankruptcy”
•
Second step: find practical guides, such as Personal Insolvency Guide and
Consumer Law and Credit/Debt Law online, as well as books at public libraries such
as Bennett on Consumer Bankruptcy and Bankruptcy and Insolvency Law.
•
Third step: find options for more in-depth research, such as the Annotated
Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (Courthouse Libraries and some public libraries).
•
Fourth Step: legislation and case law
Legislation: Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, in particular S. 67.(1) (b.3)
Case law: at CanLII use keywords “bankruptcy /s RRSP” Or try the larger
databases of case law at Courthouse Libraries BC (available to the public on public
access computers)
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Sample search #2 : theft of horse and
‘gratuitous bailment’
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Example of research resource at
Courthouse Libraries:
Halsbury’s Laws of Canada
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Online case law research: CanLII.org
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Sample search #3: Example of search using
Beginner’s Guide: Decisions on Overtime wages
Question: Patron wants to read some decisions about domestic workers and
overtime wages.
Search Strategy:
1. From the Guide’s section Which area of law does my problem fall under? see the
section on Administrative Law, which links to a website and a Clicklaw common
question.
2. Click on the Administrative Law BC link, and look for the Employment Standards
Tribunal (EST).
3. Click on the EST website link, then click on Decisions – Search All Decisions.
4. In Search box, type overtime domestic worker which results in 28 cases.
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Sample search #4: Case law research
“Where can I find a case involving a "slip &
fall" incident against a BC Safeway store?”
1. Go to CanLII.org
2. Select British Columbia
3. Enter search terms “slip and fall” safeway
4. Go through results and evaluate for relevancy.
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Sample questions answered by Courthouse
Libraries BC staff:
 Do you have a book which will explain what happens at a pre-trial
civil case planning conference?
 How much will a personal injury case like this pay?
 I haven’t been able to find this case online; can you help me find
it?
 What is involved to prepare a bill of costs in a family case?
 Where could I find a form for warehouse storage rental?
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Legal Information v. Legal Advice
 Very hard to tell the difference sometimes!
 Essentially, only provide information that you can point back to in
a resource.
Example
 Can my landlord evict me and move his parents in?
 According to this resource, a landlord must give 2 months written
notice if a close family member moves in.
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Contact us
Janet Freeman, LawMatters Program Coordinator
Courthouse Libraries BC
[email protected]
www.bclawmatters.ca
1-800-665-2570 or 604-660-9204
Evelyn Lindsay, Kelowna Branch Manager
Courthouse Libraries BC
[email protected]
250-470-6980
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