Lawyer and designer (and interesting thinker-about-law) Margaret Hagan doesn’t offer much context for this drawing, but a previous post makes it look like the California bench is taking note of court users’ experiences in order to improve. From another drawing apparently from the same panel, the following quotation is attributed to Martin Hoshino, the Administrative Director of the Judicial Council of California:
We need to take the perspective of court users to change the court system. We have to prioritize their experiences to make a system that works better.
That statement, juxtaposed with quotations from a non-lawyer, is pretty striking. To the extent courts have been intentionally designed for anything, it seems to have been for judges, lawyers, and keeping criminal defendants restrained. There is little or no consideration for the client or for pro se parties. I’ve been in a lot of courtrooms, and I don’t think I’ve ever even seen clear directions on whether and how someone should check in when they get to court. Like everything that happens after that, it’s a mystery — at least until you have done it a few times.
I don’t know whether courts around the country are having similar conversations, but between the low public opinion of the court system and the proliferation of self representation, they probably should.
After all, there are two ways to look at the fact that in many courthouses, represented parties are the exception rather than the rule. On the one hand, you can see that as a crisis for access to justice (or as some have pointed out, access to lawyers) . On the other, you can see it as evidence that pro se representation is becoming normalized. If that’s the case, then the courts definitely need to become more efficient and effective when it comes to working with pro se parties.