Vermilion County Circuit Court Opens New Legal Self-Help Center

Judge Karen Wall and Circuit Clerk Dennis Gardner announced the opening of a new online legal self-help center at a press conference today. The new center can be used by anyone with a computer with high-speed internet access. It provides legal information for simpler civil legal problems often faced by lower income people. The center was established to provide correct and current legal information to those individuals who must go to court, but cannot afford or find an attorney to represent them. For people without access to a computer with high-speed internet access, public access computers at the Danville and Hoopeston public libraries will be available for individuals to use.

The new center is the result of the collaboration among the Circuit Court of Vermilion County, the Danville Public Library, the Hoopeston Public Library, Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, and Crosspoint Women’s Shelter. Technical support and assistance were provided by the Illinois Coalition for Equal Justice and Illinois Legal Aid Online. The center is available online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at Vermilion.IllinoisLegalAid.org.

“It seems that each month more and more people are coming into court without an attorney to represent them. Very often, these litigants have no idea about how to present their case to the judge. The new legal self-help center will help these people by giving them information about their legal problem,” said Judge Karen Wall. “There really isn’t any substitute for a qualified attorney to represent people in court; but for many people, this is not a realistic option,” she continued. “Unrepresented litigants will need to take time to prepare for their court hearing if they wish to understand their legal problem and how the court system works,” she said.

Circuit Clerk Dennis Gardner was also supportive of the idea. “Every day people come into our office looking for help because they cannot find an attorney to represent them,” she said.

“We are not attorneys and until now, we haven’t really had a good place to send these litigants to find good legal information that is easy to understand and use,” he said. “This will be a great benefit to these unrepresented people.” The Office of the Circuit Clerk will begin handing out a sheet which lists options for lower income people to find legal help as well as information about the Vermilion County Legal Self-Help Center.

“The Danville Public Library is happy to be a part of this project. Many people come into the library looking for information on Illinois law and this new center will provide that information,” said Barbara Nolan, Director of the Danville Public Library. Linda Mitchell, Director of the Hoopeston Public Library, was also supportive of the project.

“Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation attempts to represent as many low-income people as possible using either staff or pro bono attorneys,” said Valerie McWilliams, Managing Attorney of Land of Lincoln’s Champaign office which serves Vermilion County. “However, the recession has increased the number of people eligible for our services; but at the same time, our funding has not increased. Even before the recession, we could help only about 20% of the people who qualify financially for our help. The legal self-help center will help provide some increased access to the court system,” she said.

The Vermilion County Legal Self-Help Center website has legal information on simpler civil legal problems commonly faced by lower income people as well as instructional videos, automated legal forms, and other legal information on such things as powers of attorney, Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment compensation.

The Vermilion County Legal Self-Help Center is the fifty-seventh such center opened in Illinois since 2007 by the Illinois Coalition for Equal Justice and Illinois Legal Aid Online working in collaboration with local court systems, public libraries, legal aid organizations, local bar associations, and other community organizations. Illinois Legal Aid Online is a nonprofit organization with offices in Chicago. It has developed and maintains the underlying website for the center. The Illinois Coalition for Equal Justice is a joint project of the Illinois State Bar Association and the Chicago Bar Association.
 

Submitted by: Illinois Coalition For Equal Justice | More news from this organization
Posted: 05/04/2011

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