Presiding Judge William Todd, Circuit Clerk Rita Porter and Flora Public Library Director Donna Corry, announced the opening of a new online legal self-help center at a press conference today. The new center will be located at the Flora Public Library. The legal self-help center was developed to provide correct and current information on Illinois law to the growing number of people who must come to court and represent themselves. Individuals using the self-help center will be able to access information about a wide variety of civil legal problems, including videos on going to court, court pleadings and related articles. The website also includes information on other non-court related legal issues such as powers of attorney, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and unemployment compensation.
The new center is the result of the collaboration among the Circuit Court of Clay County, the Flora Public Library, SWAN Domestic Violence Victim Advocates and Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation. Technical support and assistance was provided by the Illinois Coalition for Equal Justice and Illinois Legal Aid Online, both
“The number of people coming to court without a lawyer seems to increase each month. In many cases, these litigants have attempted to find a lawyer but have been unable to do so. They either cannot afford to pay a lawyer or they have not been able to get a legal aid or pro bon lawyer from Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance,” said Presiding Judge William Todd. “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 on their legal problem and the court system,” said Judge Todd. “We all know that litigants are better off in court if they have a lawyer but for many people this isn’t a realistic possibility. I felt that we needed to do something to make the court experience less frustrating for self-represented litigants. However, individuals who represent themselves, however, will need to take time to prepare for court if they want to be successful,” he said.
“For people who do not have a personal computer connected to the internet, our library has public access computers which they can use,” said Donna Corry, Director of the Flora Public Library. “Our librarians have been trained to show people how to use the website and find the legal information that they need,” she said. “Individuals will need to decide on their own how to use the legal information on the website. We cannot advise people on what to do since we are not lawyers,” she said. “The Flora Public Library is very happy to be involved in this important project for our county,” she concluded.
“Many people often show up at the Circuit Clerk’s Office looking for help in finding an attorney when they cannot find an attorney to represent them,” said Joseph A. Dailing, Executive Director of the Illinois Coalition for Equal Justice. “Many of these people cannot afford an attorney and Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance staff attorneys and pro bono attorneys are able to handle only a small number of the people who seek their help. The Circuit Clerk’s Office will begin handing out a sheet which lists options for lower income people to find legal help as well as information about the Clay County Legal Self-Help Center, he said. “The website developed by Illinois Legal Aid Online is user-friendly and has an extensive collection of legal information, videos and court pleadings,” Dailing said.
The Clay County Legal Self-Help Center is the eighty-third 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.
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