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How Self Help Centers can Improve Litigation in Your Court

How Self Help Centers can Improve Litigation in Your Court

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How Self Help Centers can Improve Litigation in Your Court

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  1. How Self Help Centers can Improve Litigation in Your Court 2017 Annual AJA Educational Conference Cleveland, Ohio September 11, 2017

  2. Help! I need somebody! Help!

  3. The Panel • Hon. Francine B. Goldberg • Domestic Relations Court, Cuyahoga County, OH • Hon. Lisa Woodruff-White • Family Court, East Baton Rouge Parish, LA

  4. The Panel • Gene Edwards • Legal Research Supervisor, Magistrate • Franklin County Municipal Court • Columbus, Ohio • Kevin J. Bowling • Court Administrator, Attorney Referee • 20th Circuit Court • Ottawa County, Michigan

  5. Leadership can be difficult…

  6. Overview • Self Represented Litigants (SRLs) • SRL Services • Benefits to the Courts • Procedural Fairness • Avoiding “Legal Advice” • Helpful Resources • Practical Applications • Q & A

  7. SRLs in the Courts • Not a new concept • 2002 CCJ/COSCA Resolution #31 • Follow-up Resolution #5 in 2015 • Self Represented Litigant Network • https://www.srln.org/ • 3 out of 5 people in civil cases go to court without a lawyer • 75%+ of cases have at least 1 SRL • Self assessment toolkits for Courts • Additional concern caused by proposed elimination of all funding for Legal Services Corporation • Self Help Centers are part of the customer service solution

  8. Recommended SRL Services • Plain language forms • Self help centers • Special court calendars • Simplified court processes • Caseflow management techniques (e.g., early judicial intervention) • Clinics or workshops • Self-help workstations • Navigators • Access to court ordered services • Multi-lingual court staff

  9. Benefits to the Court Process • Increased participant satisfaction (including judges!) • Reduction in adjournments • Time savings in the courtroom • Cost savings • Improved performance measures (e.g., timeliness and clearance rates) • Improvements in Procedural Fairness

  10. Focus on Procedural Fairness

  11. Four Dimensions of Procedural Fairness • Respect • Voice • Neutrality • Trust • “…court users having a sense that decisions are made through court processes that are fair…”

  12. Court staff - Being helpful without giving legal advice… • If you are asked for a “suggestion or recommendation” regarding a legal decision or a legal course of action, it is appropriate to advise the parties that you are not a lawyer and may not give legal advice. • Avoid using this message as a way of telling the public to “go away…I can’t help you”.

  13. Court staff - Being helpful without giving legal advice… • Neutrality • Staff must remain neutral and not make judgments about what is in the parties’ best interests—only a party and his/her lawyer may do so. • Staff should not advise parties as to which remedies to seek or whether to avail themselves of a particular procedure or alternative.

  14. Court staff - Being helpful without giving legal advice… • Impartiality • Staff have an absolute duty of impartiality. • We should never give advice or information for the purpose of favoring one party over another.

  15. Resources

  16. Michigan Legal Helpwww.michiganlegalhelp.org

  17. Michigan Legal Helpwww.michiganlegalhelp.org

  18. Resources • Self Represented Litigant Network • www.srln.org • Employee Guide to Legal Advice • https://mjieducation.mi.gov/documents/resources-for-trial-court-staff/6-employee-guide-to-legal-advice/file • Legal Information vs. Legal Advice • https://isc.idaho.gov/judicialedu/clerks/Grecean%20Article%20on%20Legal%20Advice.pdf • NCSC (KIS Division) Deb Smith, dsmith@ncsc.org, 757.259.1827

  19. Resources • The NACM Core • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQHvPSbYtdA • Caseflow and Workflow Curriculum • Sec. 4.5 Self Help • Michigan Legal Help • www.MichiganLegalHelp.org • COSCA/NACM Joint Technology Committee (JTC) • Top 10 Technology Solutions Awards • ADR/ODR resources

  20. NACM Top 10 Technology Solutions (#1) AZCourtHelp.org

  21. Judge’s Comment on Arizona Tech Solution • “Prominent assistive technology that is easy to apply/use; fairly simple navigation; nice blend of text/graphics keeps information well organized and easy to find; videos are friendly and informative…” • “Great partnership with local libraries to assist self represented litigants”

  22. NACM Top 10 Technology Solutions (#3) Show-Me Courts, Track This Case, Pay By Web, E-Filing, Mobile Optimization, Website Redesign Missouri OSCA https://www.courts.mo.gov/

  23. Judge’s Comment on Missouri Tech Solution “Track this Case is where technology puts the power of finding information about a legal case in the public’s palm.”

  24. NACM Top 10 Technology Solutions (#4) Self-Help Portal and My Court Card Superior Court of California, County of Orange https://selfhelp.occourts.org/

  25. Practical Applications

  26. Cuyahoga County Community CourtsDR Help Center “Ohio, like other states, has seen a growing number of people representing themselves in family matters out of financial necessity. Over 60% of our cases involve at least one self-represented party which adversely impacts all litigants.” Administrative Judge Rosemary Grdina Gold

  27. The Help Center • DR Help Center officially launched May 1st 2017 • Offers both walk-in and telephone assistance • Process varies by the need of the parties

  28. The Help Center Staff consists of: • a full-time, licensed attorney • help center specialists • a part-time, Office of Child Support Representative

  29. Purpose • Provides assistance to pro-se litigants with: • Divorce • Dissolution • Post-decree • Child custody • Child support proceedings • Reduce the number of delayed cases due to inaccurate or incomplete paperwork • Does NOT provide legal advice strategy or research

  30. Services • Provide court forms at no cost • Guide litigant through court procedures • Provide instructions on how to complete forms • Review completed forms for accuracy and timeliness • Help pro-se parties to locate free or low cost legal services, programs and mediation services

  31. May – July 2017 Statistics • 2,003 Total Visitors • 51 largest number of In-Person Visitors in One Day • 33.2 Average Daily In-Person Visitors • 24.8 Average Number of Daily Phone Calls • 65.1% Need help with a divorce

  32. May – July 2017 Statistics 86% of visitors did not speak to an attorney prior to coming to the Help Center

  33. May – July 2017 Statistics 26.4% of visitors have an income of less than $10,000

  34. May – July 2017 Statistics 60% of visitors are female

  35. May – June 2017 Statistics 53.9% of visitors are African American

  36. May – July 2017 Statistics 62.5% of visitors are between the age of 30 and 49

  37. May – July 2017 Statistics 65.4% of visitors have 1-2 Children

  38. Testimonials • “The Help Center Representative was patient, kind and very helpful.” • “Excellent service.” • “Please advertise your services to the public. This service is invaluable and the staff is awesome. Thank you for all of your help.” • “I think this a real need for many coming into court.” • Every question was answered and covered for us to understand.” • “No complaints. Very efficient.” • “Everything went very smoothly.” • “The help was amazing.”