Better Access to Justice Through Small Claims Courts
A Comparative Perspective from the UK and the US
Brown Bag Lunch Seminar
Sponsored by the
Legal Institutions of the Market Economy Thematic Group
January 31st, 2006, 12:30 - 2:00 PM
World Bank, Main Building, Room MC 5 N300
1818 H Street, N.W., Washington D.C.
- John Stacey, Head of Civil and Family Procedures Branch, HM Courts Service, United Kingdom
- Robert W. Tobin, Consultant, National Center for State Courts, United States
Small claims courts typically provide streamlined procedures for the resolution of suits for small sums, landlord-tenant cases, and other matters where the cost of a full-blown lawsuit is often prohibitive. They offer the possibility of achieving several objectives simultaneously -- reducing costs to the government and to the parties while at the same time enhancing access to justice. In many countries litigants need not, and indeed in some countries cannot, be represented by an attorney. The British experience shows that although putting lawyers out of business seemed like an impossible dream it was largely successful as now any litigant can commence proceeding and see it through to the conclusion without the need of a lawyer. At the same time, formulating policy and implementing legislation is aimed at ensuring the litigant in person understands the process and can use it.
The speakers will discuss different ways of designing and setting up an effective, cheap and quick small claims system that provides redress. They will mainly focus on the experience with Small Claims Courts in the UK and the US, where they have become essential to a growing consumer economy. In developing countries they can provide effective redress in a context where a functioning legal and judicial system for resolving disputes is often lacking.
John Stacey has worked for the Court Service since leaving school in 1970. He has held a number of positions in county courts and headquarters including those of Court Manager, Departmental Training Officer and Head of Publications. In recent years he has been the Lead Court Manager for the Luton Group of Courts where he oversaw the implementation of the Woolf Reforms. He is now head of the Civil & Family Procedure Branch within HM Courts Service Headquarters where he is responsible for the Civil and Family Rule Committees and the Civil and Family Justice Councils. His Branch has responsibility for a number of civil policy areas including:- Service, Case Management, Small Claims, Defences and Appeals. John Stacey also sits on European Working Groups for the Service of Documents and Small Claims and represents the UK at the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice established by the Council of Europe.
Robert W. Tobin has been an independent court management consultant since 2005. Before Prior to that time, he was a Principal Court Management Consultant with the National Center for State Courts where he specialized for many years in court finance, court organization, and court governance. He has conducted major state-wide studies of court finance and court governance. He has written numerous articles, monographs, and reports on court administration and court finance. He has also conducted many projects in general areas of court administration such as records management and clerical staffing, differential case managment and calendaring analysis. He has worked in every subject matter of courts, civil, criminal, family and juvenile and has recently been involved in studies of clerical offices, caseflow management, and allocation of judges. He has authored many legal memoranda on issues related to court organization and financing. He has been involved in studies of the feasibility of regional courthouses in Missouri and in reviews of financial procedures in two urban trial courts.