1. What should the goals for any Pro se intervention be?
2. What is the nature of Maine's Pro se problem?
3. Does having a lawyer make a difference in outcome of divorce and custody?
4. How do Pro se litigants feel about their court experience?
5. How do Family Court judges feel about their experience with Pro se litigants?
6. How does the Divorce Bar see the Pro se problem?
The points were made as some possible questions that could be asked in trying to solve the Pro se problem. They were not intended as a proposal but as a means to start a conversation about planning.
In response to that email and as a follow up to the conversation - we have the following email from the Judicial Branch.
From: Mary Ann Lynch <email@example.com>
Sent: Sep 27, 2014 7:25 AM
To: J & M Coll <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: "email@example.com", "Villa98staterep@xxxxx.com", "firstname.lastname@example.org"
Subject: Re: Our 'pro Se' conversation on Wednesday
Thank you for your follow up. Your letter raises issues you did not raise in our conversation on Wednesday. For instance "defining custody-50/50" fundamentally changes the current law, that is, "the best interest of the child standard." I suggest this type of question is a question of what the state law should be, and the resolution lies fundamentally with the Legislature. It would a violation of the separation of powers for the court to become involved in efforts to change amend the substantive law. If your goal is to change the substantive law on family issues, you should bring these issues before the Legislature.
You also did not mention in our conversation Wednesday an audit or study to be done specifically by OPEGA. As you may know, the Court currently is reviewing the report of the Family Division Task Force. These recommendations are before the Court after a year of study and 8 public hearings conducted all around the state. This report contains proposals and recommended changes to the court procedures governing family law matters. The Task Force report focus is on improving public service by, among other things, eliminating court events that cause unnecessary delay, and improving procedures to promote prompt and more effective resolution of family disputes. The comment period just closed, and the Court is now considering the report and the comments. It is premature to undertake another study, before the court has acted on the recommendations now before it. More fundamentally, an audit by OPEGA raises substantial separation of powers issues.
Your discussion of the significant challenges presented by people proceeding without lawyers, most likely because they cannot afford lawyers, is a subject that the Court has worked mightily over the years to address, (with proposals to the Legislature to provide civil legal services to low income Mainers and to encourage lawyers to provide free legal services. Indeed, in the next few weeks lawyers across the state will be recognized for providing free legal services to their fellow Mainers.). But the problem is not just one experienced in family matters. It is a problem that cuts across every civil docket in our courts. Any study of the issue needs to address all civil dockets, not just family matters. We welcome a renewed interest in this problem.
Finally, I do not think the continuing disparaging and pejorative characterization "of the divorce industry," is particularly helpful or productive. I suspect I will be accused of stifling discussion. That is not my intent. My intent is to accord all involved with respect.
Mary Ann Lynch
If you have had issues in Family Court as a Pro se litigant we ask that you contact us at MeGALert - MeGALalert@gmail.com