Our analysis of the Pathfinder Electronic Filing Project testing and in-depth discussions with our pro bono providers have led us to conclude that the extensive written material we have developed to assist self-represented filers is still insufficient. The enormity of the task, language barriers, and literacy issues prevent many self-represented parties from reading or understanding the website, handouts, and local rules. These parties need basic instruction and guidance even before any legal advice becomes necessary. While full representation by an attorney has been and continues to be the option that best addresses these situations, the Court is still faced with the reality that this population either will not or cannot obtain the services of an attorney when the Court’s written materials are insufficient for their needs.
In addition, volunteer attorneys must repeatedly give the same instruction to different groups in seminars, when their time could be better spent answering specific questions and guiding individual litigants. When an attorney needs to cancel a scheduled seminar, attendees may not be able to reschedule, therefore missing out on valuable information. Court staff is working with Public Counsel to film seminars on chapter 7.
In order to increase effective access to the Court, we are pursuing more instructional videos that cover the basics of bankruptcy for the self-help desks and the Court website. Videos will be short and address specific, narrow topics. The local bar and nonprofit groups have been quite enthusiastic and supportive. The equipment and technical needs to support these efforts, along with accurate and appropriate scripts, will be developed over the next year.
Table of Contents (Download Report)
- What Do We Know About Self-Represented Parties in our Court?
- How Many Self-Represented Parties Are There?
- Measuring Success
- Language Barriers
- Bankruptcy Petition Preparers
- Income Levels
- Literacy Issues
- Self-Represented Creditors
- Court Resources and the Impact of Large Numbers of Self-Represented Litigants
- Debtor ID Program
- Current Programs and Services for the Self-Represented
- The Court’s Website
- Personal Assistance from Court Staff
- Easy to Understand Forms and Instructions
- Assistance from Volunteers and Nonprofit Organizations
- Honor Roll
- Recruitment and Training of Volunteers
- Funding Sources for Non-Court Services
- Current Projects “Under Construction”
- Pathfinder Electronic Filing Project
- Proof of Service
- Video Instruction
- Future Surveys
- Call Center/Internet Live Chat