f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

August 21, 2003

Santa Clara Courts Self-Helpers

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 1:00 pm

I’ve wanted to write in praise of the online, walk-in and mobile Self Service Center of the Santa Clara County (California) Superior Court, since I discovered it a month ago.  So, it was gratifying but no surprise to learn that the Court’s website has received First Place honors in this year’s Top Ten Court Website Awards from JusticeServed.com.   [ thanks to Rory Perry, via the Legaline.com weblog, for the pointer on the Awards ]

 

Here’s what the Court says about its self-help center:

How does the Self Service Center help people?



The Self Service Center Office is designed to provide the public with a guide to navigate the court system in Santa Clara County. The Court also has a mobile Self-Service Center called the CourtMobile It visits locations around Santa Clara County on a monthly schedule. The Self Service Center is designed to refer people to the resources they need to best deal with their court case. This may be information, a referral to other court resources or private agencies, or a suggestion that the assistance of an attorney is needed. For those who cannot afford an attorney, the staff at the Center can provide information about legal resources available. A staff attorney is present at the Center to help the public select the best way to deal with cases, but not to tell individuals what to do or advise them of their rights.


The Self Service Center Office and the CourtMobile both offer forms and form packets, computers with Internet access to the court’s Self Service website, a VCR for watching videotapes with legal information, help filling out legal forms, help learning about Court rules and processes, and referrals to other legal resources.   In the left-hand navigation margin of the Small Claims Resources Page and of the Family Law Resources Page , users can quickly link to much more than the relevant court forms.  There is information on alternatives to using litigation, on court fees, and on the substantive law.  JusticeServed noted that the online assistance for filling out small claims court forms helped put the Santa Clara Court’s website “over the top.”


For an excellent example of online statewide self-help resources, see the California Courts Online Self-Help Center, which “will help you find assistance and information, work better with an attorney, and represent yourself in some legal matters.”   The California court system has made a true commitment to increasing access and self-help options throughout the State’s legal services and judicial system.  Bravo!


Self-help often works best when consumers can use lawyers for discrete tasks.   The aptly-named website “Unbundled” Legal Services offers extensive information on the need for, ethics and mechanics of unbundling services, with relevant materials from many states, papers from conferences, sample retainer agreements, and much more for the court system or law firm interested in tapping into and encouraging the unbundling phenomenon.



  •  Two Cents from Jack Cliente:  If you missed our July 15th posting “Pro Bono Is Not the Answer to the Access Problem,” now would be a good time to check it out. 

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