a lesson from Wisconsin: use what you got

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Rather than waiting around for more studies, grants or appropriations, a team of pro se advocates is capitalizing on resources already available in a given district, to develop three pilot projects that will provide “live help to pro se litigants” in three Wisconsin counties.  (The Third Branch, “Three new pro se pilot projects on tap,” Fall 2006; via SelfHelpSupport.org)  According to Ann Zimmerman, the statewide pro se coordinator:  

“Our intent is to make use of existing resources and creative ideas with track records in other states to help our state courts provide meaningful legal access to self-represented litigants while alleviating the burden of providing such assistance on court personnel.”

Each idea is practical and doable.  As described in the article:

  • One pilot project will involve providing services through the public library system, with training provided to the public librarians by staff from the State Law Library and local courts.
  • Another project will involve using videoconferencing technology to connect pro se litigants with volunteers located in another county.
  • The third project will involve developing a self-help clinic located in a county courthouse. The clinic will be staffed by volunteer lawyers and others, possibly with additional assistance from interested court members.

So, what are you waiting for?  Using the resources you already have, there are many ways to provide more and better pro se services (see, e.g., Best Practices in Court-Based Programs for the Self-Represented,” from the Self Represented Litigation Network, 2006, 44 pp. pdf). With commitment, drive and ingenuity you can improve your local self-help assistance program and help make justice work more efficiently and fairly.  Not too expensive and not too shabby. 

 

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