Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Party Litigant Definition:

Scotland - a party to litigation who self-represents, without benefit of solicitor or barrister in court or on the record.

Related Terms: Self-Represented Litigant, McKenzie Friend

An individual who appears in active litigation before the courts without the assistance for the representation by advocate ( the Scottish term for barrister), and wherein the party litigant would, then, conduct the litigation by himself or herself, including the research and expressions of the law, procedures, forms, delays, and submissions.

This legal term appears to be unique to Scotland. In other jurisdictions, the more commonly used legal term is self-represented party or even litigant in person.

The public office of the Auditor of the Court of Session of Scotland, uses these words to describe the party litigant:

"A party litigant is someone who does not have the benefit of legal representation but as a party to an action chooses to make their own representations to the court."

In other jurisdictions such as England and North America, another term is used which appears to be more descriptive and that is a self-represented litigants or a litigant in person.

Similar, though, to self-represented parties in other jurisdictions, party litigants, because they often are overwhelmed by the voluminous, complex and intertwined rules of court, are routinely presented by members of the bar as well as presenting not only a challenge to the judiciary on some occasions, evoking in the bench frustration.

As a sample of the difficulties  facing not party litigants but advocates ( the Scottish term for barristers), are these words presented by an Edinburh law firm:

"The recently reported case of Arun Gupta v West Lothian Council [2012] CSIH 82 brings the issue of party litigants (and vexatious litigants) sharply into focus, once again.

"Party litigant is the term used to describe a party to court proceedings who does not have legal representation. It is also the term most likely to strike fear into the hearts of any litigator, beyond the names of a few members of the judiciary.

"Before beginning, it should be made clear that the author has no difficulty with the concept of parties representing themselves in court. Indeed, the ability of a party to do so is an integral feature of any fair legal system. However, as the old adage goes, a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client and the same can often be said of party litigants.

"The problem isn't with the ability of a party litigant to represent himself; it is with the inability of some party litigants to do so properly and without resorting to extreme measures in doing so....

"(T)he case of Mr Gupta is an extreme example. However, it does serve as a useful reminder to anybody entering into litigation with a party litigant that they should proceed with caution. If a party litigant raises an action, little can be done to avoid entering the fray; however, if proceeding against a party litigant, caution and wise counsel would be advisable."1

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