self-help short-takes


   [pre-launch status, as we search for a shlep team — can you contribute?]  

This post has notes from around the country: comments about self-represented litigants by Ohio’s Chief Justice, news of an eviction self-help clinic at Harvard Law School, notes on small claims court in Illinois, and new rules on unbundled legal services in Ohio…

 OhioMap    Only a few days before convening the Ohio Judicial Conference’s annual meeting, which this year has the theme “Meeting the Pro Se Challenge,” Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer used a major portion of his Annual State of the Judiciary Address to bemoan the “disturbing fact” that “Too many of our citizens who should have legal representation go without it.” 

Chief Justice Moyers noted that “The Supreme Court is not immune. Earlier this year the Court heard an argument presented by a pro se litigant. Across the state judges, court clerks, and administrative staff navigate the boundary between providing assistance and offering legal advice on a daily basis.”   According to one local newspaper, the Chief Justice stated that Ohio’s courts will be working, over the next year, to reduce the number of pro se litigants that appear before the court. (Business First of Columbus, “Chief justice decries trend of litigants representing themselves, “Sept. 11, 2006)    The Chief Justice pointed out in his Address that the theme Meeting the Pro Se Challenge “is bold and to some, is risky.”  After listing a number of problems caused in various state courts by the self-represented, CJ Moyers said “On Monday, Sept. 18, the Supreme Court will hold a special conference at which it will consider the 54 recommendations of the Task Force on Pro Se and Indigent Litigants and the recommendations of the Council of Delegates of the Ohio State Bar Association regarding responsibility of lawyers to provide pro bono services.” 



HarvardLegalAid   The Harvard Law School Bulletin reported yesterday  (Sept. 15, 2006) that the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau recently hosted a pro se eviction clinic, to help low income families fill out answer-and-discovery forms, gather landlord information, and generally build better counterclaims to help them with their suits.   David Grossman, HLAB’s new managing attorney and faculty advisor, stated that clinics such as these “help close the access-to-justice gap,” while giving student staff members the ability to try out and acquire new skills.


expect delays   In a Legal Q&A column for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, attorney John Roska, of the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, explained why “Small claims appeal is uphill battle” (Sept. 5, 2006).  Roska notes, for example, that “Since a motion to reconsider essentially asks a judge to admit that you’re right and he’s wrong, it’s an uphill battle. There’s no statistics, but it’s safe to say such motions rarely succeed.”  

As for actual appeals, he states that in Illinois, “Only the most careful and capable pro se appellant (someone doing their own appeal) will avoid a dismissal. Of cases not dismissed, about 35 percent get some form of reversal of the lower court decision.”  Roska concludes, “Given the long odds you face, you may want to consider just biting the bullet, and accepting the judge’s decision.”  [See our prior post on states providing guidance to pro se litigants in appellate matters.]



OhioMapN. One more piece of news from Ohio, on Unbundling and Scope of RepresentationThe Ohio Supreme Court recently promulgated an extensively revamped set of Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers, which will be effective on February 1, 2007.  The Court rejected the advice of its own Task Force, which had proposed requiring a written agreement on Scope of Representation, unless the matter is expected to cost less than $500   Instead, it followed the request of the Ohio State Bar Association, which made no substantive argument, but stated frankly that it: 

“recommended changing Rule 1.2 to eliminate the writing requirement concerning scope of representation and fee-and-expense agreements to prevent violations of that requirement forming the basis of a disciplinary complaint.”

Therefore, in the final version of Rule 1.2, the statement of the scope of representation is “preferably in writing.”  (ethicalEsq had more on this topic — and a ban on advertising discount legal fees — here)












1 Comment

  1. shlep: the Self-Help Law ExPress » Blog Archive » spread the news: kvetchin’ & kvellin’

    October 4, 2006 @ 10:53 am


    […] As we had on September 16, the North Country Gazette editorial focused on Ohio Chief Justice William Moyer’s remarks about working to reduce the number of pro se litigants coming before Ohio courts.  (”Eliminating the pro se litigant,” Sept. 23, 2006)  The Gazette seems to specialize in investigating and reporting on abuses in the NY and American government, especially the judiciary.   Its editorial wonders whether Moyer has “thrown out the Constitution” and is trying to “legislate from the bench . . . or his swimming pool.” […]

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