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ABA ADOPTS RESOLUTION PROPOSED BY NYCLA
TO ASSIST UNREPRESENTED LITIGANTS IN CIVIL CASES
AUGUST 13, 2008 – NEW YORK, NY- On August 11, the American Bar Association (ABA) House of Delegates adopted a resolution urging “all jurisdictions to adopt rules, guidelines and best practices in reviewing stipulations for the settlement of cases and for use in other proceedings” involving unrepresented litigants, citing the August 2008 New York County Lawyers’ Association’s (NYCLA) Resolution/Report titled “Best Practices for Judges in the Settlement and Trial of Cases Involving Unrepresented Litigants in Housing Court” as an example of what jurisdictions can consider as they develop procedures for dealing with the significant increase of unrepresented litigants in civil matters.
Recognizing that individual jurisdictions have limited resources and other concerns that could preclude them from adopting the Best Practices, the ABA resolution stated that “…such rules, guidelines and best practices be implemented within the discretion of each individual judge and to the extent possible given limits of existing resources….”
In most Housing Court cases, pro se parties are opposed by represented parties. This disparity in access to representation results in the parties’ unequal access to information about their legal rights and unequal ability to assert legal claims, and thus presents unique challenges for courts in the delivery of justice. NYCLA’s Best Practices Report contemplates a more active role for judges “in approving settlements and conducting trials, so that unrepresented litigants will better understand their rights, the court procedures and the results of the proceedings.”
NYCLA’s Task Force on the Housing Court
NYCLA’s Best Practices Report issued in August 2008 is based on an earlier report, the “Protocols for Judges in the Settlement and Trial of Cases Involving Unrepresented Litigants in Housing Court,” prepared by NYCLA’s Task Force on the Housing Court, which was co-chaired by Hon. Marcy S. Friedman, Justice, New York State Supreme Court, and Paula Galowitz, clinical professor of law, New York University School of Law. The Task Force was an outgrowth of a major conference NYCLA sponsored in 2004, “The New York City Housing Court in the 21st Century: Can It Better Address the Problems Before It?.” In addition to the Protocols Report, the Task Force issued two other reports: “Right to Counsel in Housing Court” and “Resources in the Housing Court,” which contains recommendations on the establishment of guidelines when Guardians Ad Litem are assigned to cases of people with diminished capacity, improvement of coordination between various governmental agencies and expansion of the use of computer technology in the Court.
The New York County Lawyers’ Association (www.nycla.org) was founded in April 1908 as the first major bar association in the country that admitted members without regard to race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual identity. Since its inception, it has pioneered some of the most far-reaching and tangible reforms in American jurisprudence and has continuously played an active role in legal developments and public policy.
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The Best Practices Report is available on NYCLA’s homepage at www.nycla.org. Additional Housing Court reports are available at www.nycla.org/siteFiles/News/News59_2.pdf.