Minn. courts ask for statewide pro se virtual program

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    According to an article in a recent edition of Minnesota Lawyer, “If the judiciary gets its way this budget cycle, each of the state’s 87 courthouses will be equipped with a workstation where unrepresented litigants can go online or make a call to get aid.”  Given the success of the Hennepin County Self-Help Center (with its walk-in, online and call-in services, serving 33,000 pro se litigants last year),  the Minnesota courts are asking the Legislature for “$660,000 to fund a pro se virtual self-help program.”   The use of “virtual” resources is a “practical” response, because many courthouses do not have the staff to support an on-site walk-in center.

“Under the proposed virtual pro se program, each of the state’s 87 courthouses will be equipped with a workstation where unrepresented litigants can go online to obtain information about court procedures and particular areas of the law, as well as print relevant forms and instructions. They will also be given telephone access to staff members in Hennepin County who will be able to answer their questions.”  

ProfPointer Hennepin County District Court Chief Judge Lucy Wieland is quoted saying: “I think that when self-represented people have had access to self-help services, they have done a better job of preparing forms and necessary motions. . . . It benefits everybody in the system.”   The organizers of the project have stressed that “it benefits lawyers to face unrepresented parties who have at least some understanding of court procedures and requirements.”   (Minnesota Lawyer, “Help for pro se litigants statewide may be on way,” Feb. 14, 2007)  Do you think some Minnesota lawyers oppose giving more help to self-represented litigants?

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