Welcome to the webpages devoted to my research on communication needs of litigants in person (LiPs) and the project “Pro Se Language Use” that I am working on at the Centre for Forensic Linguistics, Aston University, Birmingham, UK. The research has been funded under the scheme of Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowships for Professional Development and is scheduled for completion at the end of July 2015.
As a linguist, I am looking at communication challenges litigants in person (LiPs) experience in court during their interaction with witnesses, judges and opposing counsels. In the adversarial legal system, the strategic use of language is often instrumental in constructing and re-interpreting narratives presented in court by the opposing parties.The existence of numerous manuals on successful trial techniques and cross-examination strategies based on a wide variety of language and rhetoric tools illustrates that the legal profession is well aware of the power of language. When LiPs present their cases in court, they have to overcome communicative and linguistic challenges that different stages of courtroom proceedings present (especially, opening and closing speeches and witness examination). Yet communication needs of litigants in person have largely remained an unacknowledged and under-researched area.
In England and Wales, the numbers of LiPs is predicted to increase dramatically as a result of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), which came into effect from April 1, 2013. The Act limits provision of legal aid to only a handful of serious situations in which civil legal services would remain to be available to those in need. Research on all aspects of litigation in person and access to justice is thus very timely.
The aims of the research presented here are to (1) prepare a manual for LiPs on strategic communication in court, (2) inform legal practitioners and judges about communication needs of LiP sand (3) contribute to the current debate on adapting features from inquisitorial proceedings to adversarial proceedings with LiPs.