Access to Justice & Self-Represented Litigants - SRLN
ACCESS TO JUSTICE & SELFREPRESENTED LITIGANTS : AN OVERVIEW FOR CIRCUIT CLERKS, LAW LIBRARIANS, AND OTHER COURT STAFF TODAYS DISCUSSION Self-Represented Litigants Changing demographics and needs Safe Harbor Policy Understanding legal information and advice Resources and Referrals Connecting litigants with other resources THE ROLE OF THE COURT IS CHANGING
12 Year Trend: Civil Case Filings Decreased By Almost 20% 800000 700000 Number of Cases 600000 500000 400000 300000 200000 100000 0 2004 2005
2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
2014 2015 Source: Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts Annual Report (http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/SupremeCourt/AnnReport.asp) 2015 & 2016 Disposed Cases with at least 1 SRL 70% 60% 50% 40%
30% 20% 10% 0% n t io p o Ad n t io a
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Ta COURT USERS ARE ALSO CHANGING SRLs In Every County 93 counties report 50% or more of civil cases have at least one SRL SRLs In Every Courthouse 73% of circuit clerks see SRLs daily SRLs In Ever Courtroom 69% of civil judges see SRLs daily Most SRLs Don't Want To Be SRLs 75% of SRLs want an attorney but cannot find or afford one BARRIERS TO JUSTICE: CHALLENGES FACED BY SELF-REPRESENTED LITIGANTS WHY ARE LITIGANTS SELF-REPRESENTED?
SRL By Choice Maintain control over case Could afford an attorney but choose to save the money Simple case that can be easily resolved SRL By Circumstance Can't afford an attorney Can't find or access an attorney Age or disability Lack of information No local attorneys Conflicts of interest Limited English proficiency
Don't know that a problem is legal Don't understand the scope and consequences of a legal problem BARRIERS TO JUSTICE ATTORNEYS Outside Chicago, the attorney population is aging and becoming more concentrated 16 counties have admitted zero new attorneys since 2012, and 52
counties admitted fewer than five 52 counties, covering more than half of the state, have 25 or fewer attorneys BARRIERS TO JUSTICE DEFINING POVERTY Family Size 1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 100% FPL 125% FPL About the Federal Poverty Level $11,880 $16,020 $20,160 $24,300
$28,440 $32,580 $36.730 $40,890 $14,850 $20,025 $25,200 $30,375 $35,550 $40,725 $45,913 $51,113 FPL is indicator used by US government to determine who is poor
Updated annually and covers the 48 contiguous states and DC Cost of living in Illinois varies greatly (Kendall County is 13% higher than the national average while Rock Island is 5% lower than national average) CHALLENGES FOR SRLS IN COURT Confusing Forms Complicated Procedures Legal Jargon
Opposing Counsel Crowded Courtrooms High Stakes Conflicts ACCESS TO JUSTICE: RESOURCES FOR SELF-REPRESENTED LITIGANTS "SAFE HARBOR" POLICY
Policy outlines "what services may and may not be offered to assist court patrons to achieve fair and efficient resolution of their cases." "Services provided in accordance with section (d) of this policy do not constitute the unauthorized practice of law." (emphasis added) L E G A L I N F O R M AT I O N A N D A D V I C E : W H AT ' S T H E D I F F E R E N C E ? Legal Information Facts about the law and the legal process Signals: Who, when, where, how? Objective information - Shouldn't require details about case
Legal Advice Advice about the course of action a patron should take to further his or her own interests Signals: Should, what? Subjective information - Often requires details of the case SCENARIO #1 A self-represented litigant comes to your office. She would like to file a complaint and does not know how to serve the defendant. She asks "what should I do?" How do you answer? What information do you give her? 16 ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT FORMS
Each approved form is: Created by a committee of judges, clerks, legal aid attorneys, and private bar attorneys Accepted in every courthouse throughout the state pursuant to Supreme Court Rules 10-101 Translated into six language (Spanish, Polish, Russian, Arabic, Korean, and Mandarin Chinese) Available as a PDF on the AOIC website: http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/Forms/approved/ Available as a guided interview on ILAO: http://www.illinoislegalaid.org/
17 ILLINOIS LEGAL AID ONLINE SCENARIO #2 A SRL comes into the clerk's office and is visibly upset. His hearing was at 10:00 AM, and he thought it was at 1:00 PM. He's already missed the court call and a default judgment has been entered against him. What do you say to him? Do you explain what a default judgment is? Do you advise him that he can file a motion to reinstate his case? SCENARIO #3 An SRL in your office does not speak or read English. You do not
have an interpreter available in your courthouse to assist. How can your office best assist the SRL? LANGUAGE ACCESS RESOURCES Supreme Court Language Access Policy: The Supreme Court outlines the state's commitment to language access. http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/CivilJustice/LanguageAccess/Language_Access_Policy.pdf Language Access Plans: Every Judicial Circuit is required to have its own language access plan. http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/CivilJustice/LanguageAccess/Language-Access-Plans.asp Interpreter Registry: The AOIC maintains a database of certified interpreters. http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/CivilJustice/LanguageAccess/Interpreter_Registry.asp
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES SCENARIO #4 An SRL comes to your office to file a motion. that she did not complete the entire form. You can see that she Do you tell her that she is missing information? Do you file the pleading as she prepared it? SCENARIO #5 An SRL comes to your office to file a motion. filled out the wrong form. You can see that she
Do you redirect her to the correct form? Do you file the pleading as she prepared it? What can you do to prevent this from happening? SCENARIO #6 An SRL says she is a victim of domestic violence and needs help getting an Order of Protection. She asks you to help her fill out her paperwork because she is anxious and scared. You want to help her, but should you? Are there any resources you can share with her? DOMESTIC VIOLENCE EXCEPTION The Illinois Domestic Violence Act at 750 ILCS 60/202(d) authorizes an
exception to the general rule: (d) Pro se petitions. The court shall provide, through the office of the clerk of the court, simplified forms and clerical assistance to help with the writing and filing of a petition under this Section by any person not represented by counsel. SCENARIO #7 You encounter an SRL with her arm in a cast. She asks for help filling out her paperwork because she cannot write. What do you do? What if the litigant did not have a cast, but was unable to read
or write due to low literacy? Would your answer be different? A NOTE ON LITIGANTS WITH DISABILITIES What is a disability? A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity Many disabilities are "invisible" What is a reasonable accommodation? A modifications designed to enable full access for an individual with a disability "Fundamental alterations" are not reasonable When does someone need an accommodation? Don't make assumptions or ask about the type of the disability "Do you need assistance because of a disability?" ADDITIONAL GUIDANCE WITH ADA ISSUES Additional Resources Supreme Court Policy on Access for Persons with Disabilities
Local Court Disability Coordinator IL Attorney General's Office Disability Rights Bureau Chicago Technical Assistance: 312-814-5684 Springfield Technical Assistance: 217-524-2660 SCENARIO #8 An SRL is filing a Notice of Appeal and tells you that he had to borrow money to pay the court fees, but he thought the issue was too important to ignore. He asks you where he can find more information about appeals. Do you tell him to apply for a fee waiver? Where would you send him for information? FEE WAIVERS
WHY ARE FEE WAIVERS NECESSARY? LEGAL ADVICE V. LEGAL INFORMATION Legal Information (Permitted) Legal Advice (Prohibited) Legal definitions Legal explanations Procedural definitions Procedural advice Available options
Recommended options General attorney referral information Specific referrals to private attorneys Forms Completed forms Instructions on what to write Advice on what to write Court rules and protocol
Court strategy Checking forms for completeness Checking forms for accuracy Local legal aid and self-help resources Representation in court How do I? Should I? SCENARIO #9
After an extended interaction with an SRL, you realize that the individual needs more than legal information. This individual needs legal advice and possibly an attorney to represent him. Do you encourage him to consult with an attorney? What referral information, if any, do you give? What if he can't afford a private attorney? LAWYER REFERRAL SERVICES LIMITED SCOPE REPRESENTATION Legal problem Income too high for legal aid/pro bono
Income too low for private attorney "Unbundled" legal services IRPC Rule 1.2(c) COURT-BASED RESOURCES FOR SRLS E-Filing Standardized Forms Fee Waivers Language Access Court Disability Coordinators User-Friendly Signs
Safe Harbor Policy Self-Help Guides Remote Appearances Legal Self-Help Centers Law Libraries Illinois JusticeCorps Pro Bono Programs Help Desks Limited Scope Representation Mediation/Arbitration Public Access Computers Interpreters COMMUNITY RESOURCES FOR SRLS
Legal Aid Agencies Pro Bono Attorneys Bar Associations Law School Clinics Social Service Providers Domestic Violence Advocates Public Libraries Illinois Legal Aid Online CARPLS (Cook County Only) RESOURCE LIMITATIONS Private attorneys cost money Legal aid and pro bono attorneys have limited capacity Growing "legal deserts" without enough attorneys Lack of awareness of existing resources
Self-help resources may be too sophisticated Self-help resources don't cover every case type Distance from court Distance from legal aid and social service providers Physical and mental disabilities Language barrier MAKING STRONG REFERRALS Be specific Avoid jargon Set expectations
Write it down THANK YOU! Samira A. Nazem Self-Represented Litigant Services Specialist Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts (312) 793-2305 [email protected]
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