n Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa - The litigant in person and the access to justice dilemma : quo vadis South Africa

Volume 49 Number 3
  • ISSN : 0010-4051


In recent years much attention has been given to the ever-increasing phenomenon of litigants in person (also referred to as self-represented litigants or pro se litigants) in civil practice within common law countries, particularly in the United States of America, Canada, Britain and Australia. Although the common law has long accepted a litigant’s right in civil proceedings to litigate in person, legal representation has more or less been the norm for centuries. Despite a substantial body of research material that has been steadily building up around various aspects of self-represented litigants, many questions have still not been answered definitively, including the reason for the growth of this phenomenon. However, what is certain is that this phenomenon is placing all aspects of the various justice systems under tremendous pressure, including the adversary system itself. Although various common law countries have made huge strides in trying to understand the phenomenon, the various role players in South Africa’s judicial administration have paid little or no attention to litigants in person (despite a regular appearance of such litigants in our courts). As it is probably only a matter of time before our legal system comes under the same pressure experienced elsewhere, it is the purpose of this article to offer proposals to first, ameliorate and secondly, to manage the consequences of such expected pressure based on the experience of other common law countries.

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