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Help for pro se users in Clark County, Indiana


Commissioners OK legal help center for courthouse

New appointment made to fill a void in County Courts


Judicial matters were the predominant theme at the Clark County Commissioners meeting Thursday.

Clark County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Moore was on hand to promote a new program for people of moderate income to get legal direction.

The program will be the Clark Legal Self-Help Center and it would use local attorneys, second and third-year law students from the University of Louisville’s Brandeis School of Law with help from Indiana Legal Service offices to direct those with a need where to go.

“I think this service will take the fear out of seeking legal advice,” said Jeffrey Caldwell, who has been helping to develop the program.

The next step for many could include finding an attorney, where to find legal information or answering basic legal questions.

“This would be directed to those folks who would not normally be able to afford legal services,” Moore said.

However, Moore added that no formal legal advice or attorney-client relationship would be formed during the help session.

But apparent to those proposing the program Thursday, there is a definite need.

“There is an incredible need … [the program] will make many more lawyers available to Clark County, low-income residents to help them to face these problems,” said Mark Robinson, attorney with Indiana Legal Services Inc.

Beyond answering initial questions or getting legal direction the program will help to ease the burden on other government offices often forced to take time to help people with legal questions.

“This is an effort to kind of streamline that to direct them [to the self-help center] instead of to my counter,” said Clark County Clerk Barbara Bratcher-Haas.

The public defender’s conference room will be the initial location of the help sessions tentatively scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

In addition to information and volunteers that will be on-hand, computer assisted services may be developed if funds or grants are available possibly by the second half of 2010, according to a handout outlining the proposed program.

The commissioners unanimously approved — Commissioner Mike Moore was not at Thursday’s meeting — the consent to the operation of the Clark Legal Self-Help Center.

Plans are to launch the program by mid-April.

Judge Moore also notified the commissioners he had created a probate administrator position for the Circuit Court.

Under Indiana Code the Circuit Court Judge is allowed to create such a position.

The probate administrator would be responsible for maintaining cases including estate, trust, guardianship and adoption cases among others.

“There are also a number of other duties this person is going to perform, because it’s a need in Clark County,” Moore said.

Moore said the need is essential due to the financial crisis hitting the county and the 30 percent cut mandated by the Clark County Council. The position was added as a result of the required cuts and staff members eliminated.

The administrator will be paid a salary of $35,700.

Commissioner Ed Meyer asked Moore if he would consider appointing someone to the position that had been recently laid-off.

“Well, I’ve already appointed a person,” Moore said.

The newly appointed probate administrator’s name was not divulged at the meeting.

In addition to the position created, computer equipment for the probate administrator was also requested by Moore.

The commissioners approved the equipment for no more than $5,000 to be paid out of the Adult/Juvenile Facilities Usage Fund.

Indianapolis law library closes but self-help center remains open


Librarian Zoya Golban turned off the lights and locked the doors Wednesday at the Marion County Law Library for the last time.

The cozy repository for legal materials and publicly accessible computers on the third floor of the City-County Building will permanently close this year because of city budget cuts.

But the library’s closing, court officials say, won’t be the end of the help the center provided to the roughly 3,000 Marion County residents who represent themselves in civil cases each year.

Go here to read the rest of the article.

Orlando Sentinel article about Do-it-yourself Divorce


Article offers some guidance for Floridians seeking to handle their own divorce.

But as the economy has plunged into recession, lawyers aren’t seeing as many clients. Conversely, the number of people representing themselves in divorce cases – instead of hiring a lawyer – has climbed steadily since 2005.

But how do you navigate the court system and get a divorce? Here are some options.

Why? Probably because it’s cheaper.

In 2005, in 59.9 percent of all divorce cases in Orange County, people represented themselves. This year – from data taken through the end of November – 65 percent of people seeking a divorce are representing themselves.

Free Bankruptcy Clinic in Minneapolis made permanent


Free bankruptcy clinic made permanent

The need for the legal help offered by volunteer attorneys at the walk-in clinic is strong in this economy.

By KARA McGUIRE, Star Tribune

Bankruptcies Soaring

No one wants to be sitting across from Mary Hoben on a Thursday morning, but they are awfully glad she’s there.

Hoben is one of 16 attorneys who donate their time and expertise to low-income Minnesotans at a free bankruptcy advice clinic. The new clinic, held at the U.S. Courthouses in Minneapolis or St. Paul, was set up on a trial basis this spring to assist people tackling the painful and mind-boggling task of filing for bankruptcy without an attorney’s help. The walk-in clinic was made permanent this fall because demand is strong. In the worst recession since the Great Depression, is that surprising?

Go here for the rest of the story.

Bankruptcy assistance in Maryland


Article about assistance for pro se bankruptcy filers in Maryland:

DIY bankruptcy — with a little help from the state

By Eileen Ambrose

July 26, 2009

Many financial matters you can easily do on your own without professional help.

Filing for bankruptcy isn’t one of them.

But if you choose to do so, you’re no longer totally left on your own in Maryland to navigate the intricacies of bankruptcy. Thanks to a new Debtors Assistance Project, do-it-yourselfers can get a half-hour of free legal advice from a lawyer, who can answer questions or check paperwork.

“It’s not going to solve everybody’s problem on that day. That’s not what it’s designed to do,” says Jeff Sirody, a Pikesville lawyer who volunteers with the project. “It’s designed to give people an opportunity to speak with an attorney. Is there any easy solution? If not, what’s the next step? Where should they go to get help?”

__(‘Read the rest of this entry »’)

“Lawyer in the Library” program in Vallejo, CA


Article from the Vallejo Times-Herald describes the popular “Lawyer in the Library” program to help patrons handle their own legal problems:

The legal system is a baffling process for most, even before they walk through the front courthouse doors.For those with limited finances, resources can be thin locally — which is why attorneys here and nationally have tried to fill the gap between government-funded, legal-aid programs and those in need.

“Legal aid in this country has been emaciated,” Solano County Superior Court Judge Paul Beeman said. “If they don’t have legal aid and they don’t have money, they’re going to lose. It’s a terrible thing when you think about all the wealth and resources in this nation.”

In Vallejo, the Lawyer in the Library program, started by former Vallejo librarian Michael Senturia with help from Beeman, has provided free one-time legal advice and referrals for the past 13 years.

“Everybody thought it was a good idea from the beginning, but once it got started, it knocked your socks off because peoplemassively appreciated the help,” Beeman said. “For most lawyers, it was real simple advice that gave direction … and they were genuinely appreciative.”

__(‘Read the rest of this entry »’)

State bankruptcy self-help websites


My plan was to compile a collection of self-help bankruptcy sites from each state.  I realized that I would never have time to do all of the states at one time, which would mean I’d never get the thing done.  So, I’m going to do five states at a time and post them here.  When I’m finished, I’ll polish it up and create a page for it.

Keep in mind that bankruptcy is a federal matter so you don’t have to limit yourself to sites specific to your own state to get information.  You might find very helpful explanatory information on a site intended for another state.  However, if there is a site that provides forms for your state, you should probably use those unless you’re prepared to adjust them for your state.

If I miss any good sites, please let me know.  Meanwhile, here are the first five.


Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Alabama


Bankruptcy Court, District of Alaska


Bankruptcy Court, District of Arizona



Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of California

Foreclosure Self-Help: a hot topic in legal self help


Thanks to the recent bursting of the housing bubble, we find that many of the pro se patrons who come to our library do so seeking help fighting foreclosure.

For Californians, one helpful document, A Self-Help Guide to Preventing Foreclosure, can be found here.  This document is provided by the California Senior Legal Hotline and Legal Services of Northern California.  LINK FIXED

The American Bar Association has published a page of useful links to Foreclosure Resources and Information.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also provides a useful page of recourses entitled “Guide to Avoiding Foreclosure.”

Your Public Law Library


I just discovered a wonderful self-help web-site, sponsored by the Council of California Law Librarians, called Your Public Law Library.  The site covers California in depth, but it also has information for other states.  The site includes information on self-help centers, guidance for legal research, including a mini-research class, and on-line reference services.

Best of all, the site is available in eight languages: English, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, French, Japanese, and Korean.

Evidence for pro se litigants


The Montana Public Interest Law Blog had an interesting article recently on one of the trickiest rules of evidence: relevance.  The author was inspired to write the post because, as a new prosecutor in a small town, he often sees people losing minor court cases because they don’t understand the rules of evidence.  

The article is a great overview of the relevance rule, putting it in simple, easy-to-understand language while also deciphering some of its complexities.  The author writes only on the Federal Rules of Evidence, however.  As he points out, anyone going into the courtroom should make sure to check their state rules as well, because sometimes there are major differences. 

Debt collectors and


While trolling the news for useful information to post on shlep, I came across this blog post at  It advises people who are being pursued by debt collectors to make sure that the company who is trying to collect really owns the debt that it’s claiming the person owes.  They also point to this great article offering tips for people being sued by debt collecters over at Alabama Consumer Law Blog

I have heard about Consumerist before, but today was the first time I visited their web-site, and I highly recommend it.  They analyze new products, discuss the customer service of various companies, and as the above article indicates, offer useful tips for consumers who are dealing with various sorts of problems related to buying and selling.  It’s a great web-site for all things related to consumer rights.

A quick perusal of the archives showed pages dealing with debt collection, early termination fees, fraud, and identity theft, and much more.  You can also send them tips when a company treats you unfairly.  Check it out. 

Law Libraries sponsoring pro se programs


In 2005, the American Association of Law Libraries held a Joint Roundtable on Service to Pro Se Patrons and Prisoners at their annual meeting.  As a part of that roundtable, they conducted an email survey, in which law libraries with pro se programs described their programs and any associated costs.

I have attached the results of that survey, which includes information from respondents in the following states: California, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.  Note that I updated the original results, deleting any links that no longer worked.

Pro Se Programs in Law Libraries



In praise of legal research guides


Legal research guides, sometimes called “pathfinders,” are exactly what they sound like – guides to legal research. A number of different organizations publish these guides, but a consistent source for particularly thorough and helpful guides is academic law libraries. As a new academic law librarian myself, I consistently use the guides published on the web-sites of other law schools when researching an unfamiliar topic. Almost every academic law library publishes them to some extent or another, and they can be a great resource for pro se patrons in learning how to find things like cases, laws, regulations – or even just in developing a research strategy when you don’t know where to begin.

If you need help with a particular type of problem, try googling for a research guide. For example, say you are going through a divorce – try googling “family law” and “research guide” or “family law” and “pathfinder.” I just tried the first search, and a number of helpful options came up.

If you need to find something more directly about your state (and most of the time, that is the case), you could try adding the name of the state to your search. Another, and probably more helpful, option, is to go to the home page for an academic law library in your state. Most such law libraries will have state specific, as well as more general, research guides, but they may not appear in Google. Because each law library works differently, you will probably have to poke around the web-site to see where the research guides are located, but usually, they are listed in the “Reference” or “Search” section of a given law library’s homepage.

As an example, check out the research guides on the UCLA Law Library web-page, which cover a variety of California and federal topics.

HALT on Living Trusts

ø has a great new guide out on planning a Living Trust.  As the abstract explains:

Like a will, a living trust is an estate-planning tool that lets you transfer property after you die. But unlike a will, property placed in a trust passes directly to your beneficiaries without first having to go through probate.

This is a great new Estate Planning tool!

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