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The perils of self-representation

The perils of self-representation

It would seem that the cost savings of self-representation may be dwarfed by its problems. This was showcased in the case of Alpugan v Baykan, 2014 ABCA 152.

In this case, the wife was represented by a lawyer, while the husband represented himself. During the trial, the husband presented his case to the trial judge. The husband also presented documents that were never proven or admitted into evidence. The trial judge received and relied on the husband's statements and documents. 

The wife's lawyer objected to the husband's unsworn statements and documents, fearing that they might be treated by the trial judge as admissible evidence. During trial, it was anticipated that the husband would testify and be subjected to cross-examination with the documents he presented. 

However, in the end, the husband decided to not take the stand and testify. After releasing the trial decision, the wife appealed the trial judge's decision.

On appeal, the Alberta Court of Appeal stated:

" the extent that the trial judge treated his statements, observations, and unproven documents as evidence, he did so in error. It is unfortunate that the trial judge did not point out to the respondent that, as a self-represented litigant, his statements and representations could not be treated as admissible evidence, and that documents were required to be proved."

About the added cost and delay to self-representation, the appellate court stated:

"We acknowledge that this may cause Mr. Baykan some disadvantage, but that is a consequence of his decisions to represent himself at trial and not to testify."

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