Tips for Self Represented Litigants

Suggested Steps in Legal Research

Know the facts in the case

  • what is the subject of cause of your case?
  • what has happened: who, what, when, where, why and how?

Classify the problem

  • is it under provincial or federal jurisdiction?
  • is it a civil or criminal case?
  • which court in Nova Scotia has jurisdiction?

Be familiar with the organization of your provincial judicial system (in hierarchical order)

  • Court of Appeal
  • Supreme Court (includes Family Division)
  • Provincial Court, Family Court, Probate Court, Small Claims Court
  • Administrative Tribunals

Contact your nearest public library or law library or university library to determine if the facility provides collective information concerning your issue.

Select the appropriate legal resources to use for general research

  • legal dictionaries can be helpful (eg. Black's Law Dictionary)
  • legal encyclopedias/digests can give an overview of a subject (eg. the Canadian Abridgement)

Use primary legal sources

  • statutes or acts passed by the legislatures (eg. The Divorce Act)
  • rulings, decisions or opinions of courts that have heard a similar case (eg. decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court, the Family Court, the Provincial Court, the Probate Court, Small Claims Court)

Check for the most current information

  • when doing legal research, study the most current information
  • look for the most current statutes, including recent amendments and most current cases
  • check to make sure any case law you use has not been overturned by a higher court

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