General practices

for civil

1. General Practices

1.1 Plain English. Judges should(3) use plain English and minimize the use of complex legal terms when conducting court proceedings.

1.2 Language barriers. Judges should be attentive to language barriers experienced by self-represented litigants. Judges should take the necessary steps to provide qualified interpreters to self-represented litigants who are not fully conversant in English or who are hearing impaired.

1.3 Legal representation. Judges should inform litigants that they have the right to retain counsel and the right to be represented by counsel throughout the course of the proceedings. Judges should also acknowledge that parties have a right to represent themselves. Judges should confirm that the self-represented litigant is not an attorney, understands the right to retain counsel, and will proceed without an attorney. Judges also may inquire into factors relevant to an understanding of self-representation.

1.4 Application of the law. Judges shall apply the law without regard to the litigant's status as a self-represented party and shall neither favor nor penalize the litigant because that litigant is self-represented.

1.5 Materials and services for self-represented litigants. Judges should encourage the provision of information and services to better enable self-represented litigants to use the courts. Judges also should encourage self-represented litigants to use these resources.

(3) The term "should" is used throughout the Guidelines to indicate that the conduct referenced is recommended but not mandatory.


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