Unrepresented Civil Litigants Fare Better With Nonlawyers, Study Shows

Trained legal helpers can aid with paperwork or answer questions from a judge but can’t argue in court.

News Story (New York)

Corinne Ramey
Wall Street Journal (WSJ)
December 13, 2016

Tags: Courts, Housing: Eviction

Organizations mentioned/involved: American Bar Association (ABA)


In New York City’s overwhelmed civil courts, unrepresented litigants are faring better in the courtroom after being assisted by trained legal helpers, according to an evaluation of three pilot programs published Wednesday.

The study evaluates an idea that proponents call a low-cost way to make civil courts work better and that critics call a stopgap measure in a system where everyone should have a right to a lawyer. The U.S. Constitution grants defendants a right to a lawyer in criminal cases but not civil cases.

The study is one of the first independent evaluations of so-called nonlawyers, known in New York City as navigators, said its authors, who aren’t affiliated with the pilot programs.