Litigation in person is a widespread phenomenon in common law jurisdictions. A right to litigate in person is treated as a fundamental right in both civil and criminal proceedings, regardless of whether the litigant or the defendant has the financial means to hire a lawyer or the capacity to conduct litigation effectively. The proposed research has two primary objectives. First, to establish a general principle that the right to self-representation has no significant theoretical value and, accordingly, that it is justifiable to require legal representation in cases where litigants in person are unlikely to be able to litigate their cases effectively and without imposing disproportionate costs on the administration of justice. The second objective is to explore the specific conditions under which the general principle set forth above should be applied, and the types of cases in which mandatory representation may or may not be justifiable. The theoretical part of the project will be developed on three main fronts: a comparison of the civil and criminal contexts; an assessment of the value of self-representation in terms of outcome, including a cost-benefit analysis; an examination of the possible intrinsic justifications of self-representation, with particular emphasis on personal autonomy, litigants’ subjective satisfaction and their acceptability of adverse outcomes, and the entitlement of citizens in a democracy to participate in a process that is decisive to their interest. The theoretical findings will be utilised to conduct a detailed doctrinal analysis of the case law of English and American courts, and also that of the European Court of Human Rights, the European Commission on Human Rights, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and the United Nations Human Rights Committee. This analysis will also review the civil law practice of mandatory representation.
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