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FROM BEAR GARDENS TO THE COUNTY COURT: CREATING THE LITIGANT IN PERSON

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 June 2020

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Abstract

Negative attitudes towards litigants in person (LiPs) are long-standing. But despite their persistence, no study has ever considered: how did we get here? This is what this article sets out to do, analysing when the term LiP first appears, and the context in which this occurs. I argue this moment is a by-product of broader changes taking place for the legal profession in the nineteenth century. Drawing on Larson's “professional project” I argue the new county courts become a battleground for attorneys to distinguish themselves, and it is the introduction of certain kinds of distinction that undermines the self-represented party. This article ultimately argues that the LiP role is not simply self-representation, but is rather self-representation that can only occur in the latter stages of the professional project. This means, perversely, that the creation of the term LiP does not indicate the facilitation of lay participation in legal forums; it marks instead the moment when they are displaced. As I conclude, this displacement has profound consequences for LiPs to this day.

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Copyright © Cambridge Law Journal and Contributors 2020

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Footnotes

*

Thanks are due to Professor Michael Lobban for his feedback on an oral version of this paper presented at the LSE Law Department in 2014.

References

1 County Courts Chronicle (hereafter CCC), 1 June 1847, p. 10.

2 CCC, 1 September 1866, p. 194.

3 Western Times, 4 November 1927, p. 16.

4 “LiP” is used in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. “Party litigant” is the Scottish term. Self-represented litigant (“SRL”) is preferred in Canada, New Zealand and Australia, and “pro se litigant” is the US term.

5 See Sourdin, T. and Wallace, N., “The Dilemmas Posed by Self-Represented Litigants: The Dark Side” (2012) 32 Access to Justice 61Google Scholar; M. Taylor, “Querulent Behaviour, Vexatious Litigants and the Vexatious Proceedings Act 2005 (Qld)”, conference paper delivered at the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration, Assisting Unrepresented Litigants: A Challenge for Courts and Tribunals, Sydney, 15–17 April 2014; Robbins, I.P. and Herman, S.N., “Pro Se Litigation – Litigating Without Counsel: Faretta or For Worse” (1976) 42 Brook.L.Rev. 629Google Scholar; Ridley, M.K., “The Right to Defend Pro Se: Faretta v. California and Beyond” (1976) 40 Ala.L.Rev. 365Google Scholar; Swank, D., “The Pro Se Phenomenon” (2005) 19 B.Y.U.J.Pub.L. 373, at 384Google Scholar.

6 G. Langton-Down, “Litigants in Person Could Struggle to Secure Access to Justice”, Law Society Gazette, 19 January 2012; J. Hyde, “Judges Call for Urgent Overhaul to Cope with Surge of LIPs”, Law Society Gazette, 5 July 2013; J. Greenwood, “Legal Aid: Children Suffer”, Law Society Gazette, 22 July 2013; C. Baksi, “Litigant in Person Punches Wife during Hearing”, Law Society Gazette, 21 October 2013.

7 See Genn, H. and Genn, Y., The Effectiveness of Representation at Tribunals, Report to the Lord Chancellor (London 1989)Google Scholar; Moorhead, R. and Sefton, M., Litigants in Person: Unrepresented Litigants in First Instance Proceedings, Department of Constitutional Affairs Research Series 2/05 (London 2005)Google Scholar; Baldwin, J., “Litigants' Experiences of Adjudication in the Civil Courts” (1999) 18 C.J.Q. 12Google Scholar; Lewis, P., “Litigants in Person and their Difficulties in Adducing Evidence: A Study of Small Claims in an English County Court” (2007) 11 International Journal of Evidence and Proof 24CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Trinder, L., Hunter, R., Hitchings, E., Miles, J., Moorhead, R., Smith, L., Sefton, M, Hinchly, V., Bader, K. and Pearce, J., Litigants in Person in Private Family Law Proceedings (London 2014)Google Scholar; Lee, R. and Tkacukova, T., A Study of Litigants in Person in Birmingham Civil Justice Centre (Birmingham 2017)Google Scholar; McKeever, G., Royal-Dawson, L., Kirk, E. and McCord, J., Litigants in Person in Northern Ireland: Barriers to Legal Participation (Belfast 2018)Google Scholar.

8 Whilst some references can be found to individuals conducting their own cases, these are rare, usually in criminal cases, and it is only the county courts where this reportage happens more regularly. One example of the former can be seen in The Morning Post, 8 April 1848, p. 7, where a criminal defendant “represented herself with a good deal of skill and occasioned much amusement in the Court by the ingenious manner in which she cross examined the witnesses”.

9 As Margot Finn argues in The Character of Credit, the argument that lawyers dominate the county courts is too simplistic; rather, the new county courts bring anxieties as to who has the right to appear, and under what circumstances. Finn, M., The Character of Credit: Personal Debt in English Culture, 1740–1914 (Cambridge 1993)Google Scholar.

10 Larson, M.S., The Rise of Professionalism: A Sociological Analysis (Berkeley 1977)Google Scholar.

11 The “rank-and-file” practitioners are the attorneys and solicitors, with attorneys practising in courts of common law and solicitors practicing in Chancery. This division ends in 1874 with the Judicature Acts when all attorneys become solicitors. Significantly, as the County Courts Chronicle notes, the attorney's function in the county court becomes more and more that of an advocate. See CCC, 1 October 1847, p. 96.

12 This crackdown was unsuccessful, with “agents” appearing well into the 1900s. See Finn, Credit, p. 257.

13 By displaced, I refer not to physical displacement (as litigants in person continued, and continue to come), but rather the moment where they are displaced from being “normal” in legal discourse and instead presented as marginalised from the “real work” of courts.

14 The nineteenth century is a time of far-reaching changes: such developments touch on this research but remain tangential enough that dealing with them directly would take this research too far from the key questions. See Andrews, R.W., The Supreme Court of Judicature Acts, and the Appellate Jurisdiction Act, 1876: With Rules of Court and Forms to May, 1880 (London 1880)Google Scholar. See also Lobban, M., “Preparing for Fusion: Reforming the 19th Century Court of Chancery, II” (2004) 22 L.H.R. 565Google Scholar.

15 My exclusive focus on the county courts is because it is only through the creation of these courts in 1847 that we begin to hear from unrepresented parties for the first time. This is because it is the first time that the unrepresented litigants start to come routinely into contact with the legal profession in the same court. This means that legal reporters had an incentive to report on proceedings, and to publish in places like the County Courts Chronicle, and its parent publication, the Law Times.

16 Finn, Credit; Polden, P., A History of the County Court, 1846–1971 (Cambridge 1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Arthurs, H.W., Without the Law: Administrative Justice and Legal Pluralism in 19th Century England (New York 1985)Google Scholar; Brand, P., The Origins of the English Legal Profession (Oxford 1992)Google Scholar; Brooks, C., Lawyers, Litigation and English Society since 1450 (London and Rio Grande 1998)Google Scholar; Brooks, C. and Lobban, M. (eds.), Communities and Courts in Britain: 1150–1900 (London and Rio Grande 1997)Google Scholar.

17 Other search terms included “small debts” and “small debts act” as the working title for some of the earlier proposals that preceded the County Court Act.

18 The County Courts Chronicle was absorbed into the Law Times in 1920 and ceased to be a separate publication before disappearing altogether.

19 My exclusive focus on the County Courts Chronicle is largely a matter of necessity; it is the only paper reporting regularly on the county courts. Its parent and sister publications (see n. 20) do also on occasion write stories about the county courts and where relevant they have been included. However, until 1855 with the abolition of the stamp duty on newspapers, there is not a wider press to report on cases. After stamp duty abolition, local presses begin to run stories on the county courts and again, where this is relevant, they have been included. For more information on the development of press on legal proceedings, see Jones, M.P., Justice and Journalism: A Study of the Influence of Newspaper Reporting upon the Administration of Justice by Magistrates (Chichester 1974), pp. 3839Google Scholar.

20 While I have been unable to find any explicit circulation figures, the publishers of the CCC were also those involved in the publication of legal circulars, most notably the Law Times which began in 1843 and ran until 1965, billing itself as a publication for “law and lawyers”. Its sister publications included The Jurist, Solicitors' Journal and Legal Journal. We can therefore speculate that the CCC was for a select, mainly legal professional, audience. A Chronicle entry described it as “well known” as the “organ of the legal profession”. CCC, 1 March 1858. See also Sunderland, E., “The English Struggle for Procedural Reform” (1925) 39 H.L.R. 725, at 734Google Scholar.

21 Polden, County Court. The fact that the only publications reporting on county courts are legal publications, of course, suggests the potential issue that any representation of self-represented litigants is going to be more likely to be cast in a negative light. However, I believe the focus is justified for two reasons: first, because the way in which lawyers perceive self-represented litigants is in fact foundational to the notion of a litigant in person, and so the refracted lens of the Chronicle is incredibly useful for charting this. Secondly, we know from other sources, and from the work of scholars like Paul Johnson, that litigants representing themselves persist, even if they are not talked about; see P. Johnson, “Creditors, Debtors and the Law in Victorian and Edwardian England” (1996) LSE Working Papers in Economic History No. 31/96.

22 My analysis of the County Courts Chronicle is based on searching the database Newspaperarchive.com which provides access (at a fee) to editions of the Chronicle from the year 1846 onwards. However, while online editions are available until 1904, and the publication itself continued for sixteen years after this online database ends, I chose not to continue to read further than the 1890s as, by this time, the term LiP had been well established and was appearing in multiple contemporary newspapers.

23 Larson, The Rise of Professionalism, pp. xvi, xvii.

24 Bourdieu, P., “The Force of Law: Towards a Sociology of the Juridical Field” (1987) 38 Hastings L.J. 805Google Scholar.

25 Bourdieu, P., The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature (New York 1993), pp. 162–64Google Scholar.

26 Larson, The Rise of Professionalism, p. 6, n.

27 Polden, County Court, pp. 815–19. Contemporary accounts are provided by the CCC, Law Times and the HC debates.

28 Larson, The Rise of Professionalism, pp. 9–10.

29 Ibid., at p. 77.

30 Brooks, Lawyers, p. 186.

31 For the parallel story of criminal proceedings, see Langbein, J., Origins of Adversarial Criminal Trial (Oxford 2003)Google Scholar.

32 Brand, Origins, p. 5.

33 Ibid., at p. 34.

34 By the time we reach the establishment of superior courts under Henry II, we have courts where Brand notes almost all litigants were “outsiders”, ibid., at p. 69.

35 P. Tucker, “London's Courts of Law in the Fifteenth Century: The Litigant's Perspective” in Brooks and Lobban (eds.), Communities and Courts in Britain, p. 29.

36 See Hastings, M., The Court of Common Pleas in the 15th Century (Ithaca 1947), p. 169Google Scholar.

37 Brand, Origins, p. 9. It is important to note, however, Brooks's research demonstrating that a wider section of the population accessed early modern courts than has been assumed to be the case. See Brooks, Lawyers, pp. 15–16.

38 For an overview of this multi-court landscape, see Arthurs, Without the Law.

39 Some tribunals required an initial written plaint, but the clerks at the courts themselves could draft this on the oral application of the plaintiff.

40 This is not the case for the Eyres, which did employ common law and which travelling King's Justices established from 1176 without legislative authority.

41 For a fuller account of communal justice and local courts, see Baker, J.H., “The Changing Concept of a Court” in Baker, J.H. (ed.), The Legal Profession and the Common Law: Historical Essays (London 1986)Google Scholar.

42 Polden, County Court, pp. 5–37.

43 As I go on to outline, the new county courts both replace the old county courts and close down the courts of requests. See HC Deb. vol. 10 cols. 303–4 (23 February 1824). See also Finn, Credit, pp. 236–77.

44 Parkes, J., The State of the Court of Requests and the Public Office of Birmingham, with Considerations on the Increase and Prosecution of Crime in the County of Warwick, Etc (Birmingham 1828), p. 5Google Scholar.

45 The Statute of Gloucester c. 8 from 1176 stated that writs for goods had a minimum value of 40s. but this appears to be a separate financial floor from the above, which was superior court practice from around this time but never formally linked to it.

46 Bentham, J., A Protest Against Law Taxes (London 1795), pp. 3436Google Scholar.

47 See R. Peel, HC Deb. vol. 17 cols. 1350–61 (20 June 1827). See also Lord Brougham, HC Deb. vol. 24 cols. 243–89 (29 April 1830).

48 Arthurs, Without the Law, p. 16.

49 J. Smith, HC Deb. vol. 17 cols. 297–9 (9 April 1827).

51 See Johnson, “Creditors, Debtors”, pp. 1–32.

52 Indeed, this is precisely the case made in one of the earliest pamphlets directly discussing “accessibility of justice’ published in 1830. See Editorial, “Mr Brougham and Local Judicatories” (1830) 13 Westminster Review.

53 See Dorset, S., “Destitute of the Knowledge of God: Maori Testimony before the New Zealand Courts in the Early Crown Colony Period” in Kirkby, D. (ed.), Past Law, Present Histories (Canberra 2012), pp. 4647Google Scholar.

54 Finn, Credit, p. 205.

55 Ibid., at p. 47; Polden, County Court, p. 47.

56 Ibid. See also Arthurs, Without the Law, p. 26. Testifying in person is distinct to self-representation, referring to a party in the case giving a sworn account of what happened to a court.

57 Finn, Credit, p. 18.

58 Arthurs, Without the Law, p. 26.

59 See Polden, County Court, p. 11.

60 A barnstorming address by the Lord Chancellor in 1830 outlines the reasons to “absorb” the courts of conscience or requests and create the new county courts. It can be found in HL Deb. vol. 1 cols. 707–40 (2 December 1830).

61 CCC, 1 July 1847, p. 34.

62 Finn argues that there is “active hostility” to the profession in these courts of requests, with Bath banning legal professionals from acting as judges and fining attorneys £20 for appearing in court, and with this practice and attitude being “commonplace”. Finn, Credit, p. 205. See also Brooks, Lawyers, p. 42.

63 Lord Brougham, HC Deb. vol. 24 cols. 243–89 (29 April 1830). See also Caldwell, quoted in Finn, Credit, p. 221.

64 The Legal Observer or Journal of Jurisprudence notes in 1830: “It is a striking and important fact that public opinion has always been against such courts as are now contemplated. The decent part of the community feel it discreditable to resort to them, and even the very rabble despise them” (vol. 1, p. 104).

65 CCC, 1 July 1847, p. 34.

67 Griffiths, J., “What Is Legal Pluralism?” (1986) 18 J. Legal Plur. 1, at 3Google Scholar.

68 Galanter, M., “Justice in Many Rooms: Courts, Private Ordering and Indigenous Law” (1981) 13 J. Legal Plur. 1, at 10Google Scholar.

69 Preamble, County Courts Act 1846.

70 Arthurs, H.W., “Without the Law: Courts of Local and Special Jurisdiction in Nineteenth Century England” (1984) 3 J.Leg.Hist. 130, at 143–44Google Scholar.

71 Larson, The Rise of Professionalism, pp. 9–10.

72 Polden, County Court, p. 43.

74 Christopher Brooks notes: “there was a conflict between the professional desire to maintain a monopoly over specialised fields of knowledge and the belief that these were too important to society at large for them to be withheld”. Lawyers, p. 234.

75 Bourdieu, “The Force of Law”, p. 819.

76 CCC, 1 July 1847, p. 33; see also p. 35 on legal professionals giving “character” to a court.

77 Law is considered to be one of the “old professions”, along with medicine and the Church.

78 This is arguably still the case for the Bar, whose members are disproportionately drawn from Oxbridge and public schools. See M. Blackwell, “‘Old Boys’ Networks, Family Connections and the Legal Profession” [2012] P.L. 426.

79 Duman, D., “The Creation and Diffusion of a Professional Ideology in Nineteenth Century England” (1979) 27 The Sociological Review 113, at 115CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also Duman, D., “Pathway to Professionalism: The English Bar in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century” (1980) 13 Journal of Social History 615, at 622CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

80 Marx and Engels identified this as central to the development of the “cash nexus”. See Marx, K. and Engels, F., The Communist Manifesto (London and New York, 2013), 61Google Scholar.

81 Marshall, T.H., “The Recent History of Professionalism in Relation to Social Structures and Social Policy” (1939) 5 The Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science 325CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

82 Brooks, Lawyers, p. 150.

83 CCC, 1 March 1848, p. 193. Attempts to restrict access to advocates in favour of the Bar were met with anger and virulent debate: see also the Law Times 19 (3 July 1852), p. 117.

84 Larson, The Rise of Professionalism, p. 11.

85 As Paul Johnson notes, although there was never an acknowledged “County Court Bar”, it was attorneys (and later, solicitors) who gained a near monopoly on representation in the new county courts. Johnson, “Creditors, Debtors”, pp. 11–12.

86 For more discussion on the relevant merits of attorneys versus barristers, see also: CCC, 7 January 1850, p. 14; CCC, 1 March 1870, p. 63; CCC, 2 March 1868, pp. 81–82; CCC, 1 February 1868, p. 53; The Jurist, 26 June 1852, p. 205.

87 Larson, The Rise of Professionalism, p. 79.

88 CCC, 1 June 1847, p. 11.

89 Larson, The Rise of Professionalism, p. 3.

90 An 1858 commentator notes that “for the most part the business of the court is either conducted without the assistance of professional men” or by unlicensed attorneys. See CCC: 2 July 1855, p. 131; 1 February 1853, p. 25; 1 February 1852, p. 26; 9 August 1850, p. 513; 1 March 1859.

91 CCC, 1 June 1847, p. 4. This is echoed by the account from 27 April session at Whitby: ibid., at p. 6.

92 Ibid., at p. 10.

93 From the beginning of the CCC the normality of being unrepresented was linked to the perceived simplicity of the case. See in particular CCC, 1 July 1855, p. 131; CCC, 1 February 1860, p. 15. For more evidence on the normality of individuals representing themselves, see CCC, 2 July 1860, pp. 15–16.

94 This includes those who were not legal professionals but who still acted for others, including family members or work colleagues, in a paid or unpaid capacity. The early days of the county court show some instances of family members being allowed to act as proxy, and others where they are not. This inconsistency is rectified through the increased crackdown on any unrepresented parties, meaning family members and agents alike were prevented from representing a claimant or defendant. There is an interesting link to be made here between the desire of the legal profession to stamp out non-legal representation and the later relationship between the courts and McKenzie Friends.

95 CCC, 1 July 1847, p. 28.

96 For more on the fascinating question on who has the right to appear, and the role of women as agents, see Finn, Credit, pp. 255–57.

97 See e.g. Martin v Marshall, CCC, 2 August 1847, p. 43. See also CCC: 1 April 1848, pp. 9–15; 1 June 1848, p. 270; 1 January 1849, pp. 21–22; 1 May 1849, p. 119; 1 December 1856, pp. 231–32; 2 February 1857, pp. 37–38; 1 July 1858, p. 161; 1 September 1859, p. 121; 1 April 1862, p. 92; 1 July 1862, p. 140; 1 June 1865, p. 122; 1 January 1869, p. 313; 1 January 1869, p. 2; 1 May 1863, p. 85.

98 County Courts Act 1846, s. 91.

99 There are no court statistics available from the early days of the county court; however, the CCC publishes court statistics for 1867, which notes that of 872,437 plaints issued, 864,193 were issued for sums under 20l. Whilst this is more than the 5l limit described above, it is still evidence that the vast majority of cases dealt with in the county court 20 years into its existence were still overwhelmingly very small debts. See CCC, 1 January 1868, p. 27. Another bulletin on court statistics comes in the following year: see CCC, 1 November 1868, pp. 541–42.

100 See R. Peel, HC Deb. vol. 17 cols. 1350–61 (20 June 1827).

101 CCC, 1 July 1847, pp. 34–35. See also CCC: 2 December 1867, p. 282; 1 May 1858, p. 112; 1 August 1868, p. 187.

102 CCC, 1 June 1847, p. 1. At the time the judge states this (1847), there are no formal practice rules for county courts, nor do county court decisions bind other county courts in horizontal precedent. Consequently, the judge is free to make a determination not based on any other court's judgment. According to the County Courts Act, only sums over the value of £5 could be taken to an appeal court, and only at the discretion of the judge. County Court Act 1846, c. 95, s. XC.

103 CCC, 1 June 1847, p. 1.

104 Ibid., at p. 2.

105 Ibid., at p. 2.

106 These inconsistencies are particularly marked on the question of who has the right to appear in court. There is, as previously noted, a clear desire to crack down on the uncredentialed “sham lawyers”. But at the same time, sympathetic commentators note that the majority of those who wish to pursue a claim are tradespersons who have multiple business responsibilities which may mean appearing in person is difficult, but who are seeking relief for such a small amount that employing a legal representative would not be a cost effective decision. See CCC, 1 April 1852, p. 45.

107 This is echoed by the judge in Martin v Marshall (2 August 1847).

108 CCC, 1 July 1847, p. 5.

109 Ibid.

110 CCC, 1 September 1847, p. 77.

111 See Graham, C., Ordering Law: The Architectural and Social History of the English Law Court to 1914 (London 2003)Google Scholar.

112 CCC, 1 September 1847, p. 77.

113 Larson, The Rise of Professionalism, p. 12.

114 Polden, County Court, p. 43.

115 CCC, 2 August 1847, p. 59. For other references to judicial costume, dress and dignity, see CCC: 1 August 1868, p. 187; 2 December 1867, p. 282.

116 CCC, 1 December 1870, p. 285.

117 Johnson, “Creditors, Debtors”, p. 11.

118 This begins at amounts below £20 (or higher amounts if the parties agree that the amount awarded will not exceed £20) in 1847. It is then raised to £50 in 1850 and £100 in 1903.

119 Section 91 of the original act determines the ceiling of pay awardable to an attorney in the county courts. By 1850 a separate section of the Act (section 6) deals specifically with fees to be paid to attorneys and barristers, with provision stating that it should not exceed 2 pounds 10 shillings and that court costs are to be allocated at the discretion of the judge. This is revisited in 1852, 1856 and 1875, with continual incremental rises in fees before the 1882 reform essentially moving the question of fees into the court costs, thus facilitating an expansion of professional presence.

120 Larson, The Rise of Professionalism, p. 14.

121 CCC, 6 May 1850, p. 138.

122 CCC, 1 July 1875, p. 163.

123 CCC, 6 May 1850, p. 138.

124 Ibid.

125 An account of a Junior Bar meeting in the CCC describes this accumulation of jurisdiction as resulting in attorneys effectively “stealing” their work and suggesting they are owed compensation. See CCC, 1 February 1868, p. 53.

126 CCC, 1 December 1849, p. 328.

127 This formula continues into the 1870s onwards, giving for example a table of contents where the subheading under “contract” might be: “Liverpool county court; a novel question of ownership liability” CCC, 1 December 1870, p. 266.

128 Again, it is important to reiterate that the majority of cases in the county court were still small debts, and probably still unrepresented – but in the absence of clear statistics on representation, this remains speculative.

129 CCC, 1 July 1889.

130 CCC, 1 December 1870, p. 270; see also CCC, 1 November 1870, p. 247.

131 CCC, 1 February 1849, p. 49.

132 It is also during this time that the stamp duty on newspapers is abolished, leading to more press reporting on matters of interest in the courts, including, occasionally that of self-represented parties. For example, in 1860 the London Observer reports on Sneddon v Sneddon, noting: “In the probate and divorce court, a judgment was given … favourable to the lady who, with so much ability and self-possession, has conducted her own case before the court after her counsel declined to proceed”, 12 November 1860, p. 6. The tone of admiration here indicates that those who represent themselves can be looked on in a heroic light – in this case, because the lady had no choice but to represent herself when her counsel would not. The self-represented litigant winning against the odds is a recurring theme, reminiscent of more modern examples, such as the McLibel case (see McDonald's Corporation v Steel & Morris [1997] EWHC QB 366).

133 CCC, 1 February 1868, p. 39.

134 This is not always the case. In 1849 the Chronicle praises the county court's ongoing use of “plain English” instead of formal pleading. CCC, 1 February 1849, p. 44.

135 CCC, 1 June 1847, p. 10.

136 CCC, 1 February 1860, p. 14.

137 Ibid., at pp. 12–13.

138 Ibid. The reportage of humorous cases, whether involving self-represented parties or not, is common in the wider press mentions of the county courts at the time. Where cases are reported they tend to be those that may be of wider interest – sometimes for legal reasons, but often because they are unusual. For example, multiple papers, including The Guardian and The Patriot reported on the case of Mr. Samuel Marsden, whose cat had been shot by a gamekeeper. The Patriot notes the “considerable amusement” of the court as the defence sought to establish that cats were “ordo fere naturae, and therefore worse than worthless”. See The Guardian, 2 January 1850, p. 9; The Patriot, 3 January 1850, p. 2.

139 CCC, 1 September 1866, p. 134.

140 CCC, 1 August 1859, p. 108.

141 Ibid.; CCC, 1 June 1859, p. 66.

142 CCC, 1 June 1847, p. 5; CCC, 1 January 1861, pp. 25–26; CCC, 1 December 1870, p. 285.

143 Johnson, “Creditors, Debtors”, p. 17.

144 E.g. the self-represented party is an “eccentric and talkative little man”. CCC, 1 October 1870, p. 14. See also CCC, 1 January 1861, pp. 25–26; Grantham Journal, 15 August 1891, p. 7.

145 Grantham Journal, 15 August 1891, p. 7.

146 CCC, 1 September 1866, p. 194.

147 Falkirk Herald, 20 October 1897, p. 7.

148 The Standard (London Evening), 5 November 1884, p. 3.

149 Morpeth Herald, 21 June 1890.

150 Yorkshire Evening Post, 27 September 1922, p. 5.

151 See Pall Mall Gazette, 18 January 1894; The Star, Guernsey, 6 May 1890; Dundee Evening Telegraph, 30 July 1913. An interesting case in point of the growth of high profile LiPs is that of Georgina Weldon, whose story could fill a whole book, much less a footnote. Mrs. Weldon, whose husband tried to have her committed, successfully brought civil suits against all those who had attempted to have her committed: she was known for conducting multiple lawsuits at one time, and for always representing herself. As a high-profile personality and a prominent spiritualist, her cases were reported with relish by numerous publications: see e.g. the London Magnet, 6 April 1885; Lloyds Weekly London Newspaper, 16 March 1884; The Guardian, 30 July 1884. The tone in which she was discussed is typical; much was made of her spiritualism, with the papers noting she believed her dog “had the spirit of a man”. When the courts suggested hearing voices was a sign of madness, she noted: “Joan of Arc heard voices: was she crazy? You see, I do not believe in mad doctors, but I do believe in spirits.” See Lloyds, 16 March 1884, p. 7.

152 The Queen v Justices of London [1896] 1 Q.B. 659, 662. This case is significant in underlining LiPs’ rights of access into the higher courts; earlier newspapers reported cases where LiPs were denied a hearing. See e.g. the Edinburgh Evening News, 10 August 1892. While this is a Scottish case it is notable that the LiP prevented from being heard protests that there is no evidence of such a rule banning self-represented litigants.

153 See Letter from “Parochial Critics” CCC, 1 November 1870, pp. 261–62.

154 Aberdeen Evening Express, 9 August 1892.

155 Another good example of the growth of high profile litigious LiPs is that of Alexander Chaffers. Chaffers, a former solicitor, mounted multiple claims in multiple courts that eventually lead to him being the first individual branded a vexatious litigant and prevented from pursuing further litigation. His litigation spree began in the 1870s and continued for decades, including at one point suing the Archbishop of Canterbury in the county courts. His conspiracist claims, which became increasingly outlandish, set the template for much of what we perceive to be emblematic of the stereotype of a litigant in person. For an excellent and detailed account of Chaffers life and suits, see M. Taggart, “Alexander Chaffers and the Genesis of the Vexatious Actions Act 1896” [2004] C.L.J. 656.

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FROM BEAR GARDENS TO THE COUNTY COURT: CREATING THE LITIGANT IN PERSON
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