Debate in Missouri over assisting pro se clients


An article in the June 4th edition of Missouri Lawyer’s Weekly discusses the recent debate in the state legal community over the Missouri Supreme Court’s proposed rules for assisting pro se litigants through the court system.

The proposed rules would allow court clerks to provide information and forms to pro se litigants.  Proponents argue that the help is badly needed, but opponents say the proposed rules are tantamount to allowing the unauthorized practice of law.  Some also argue that the court system is simply too overstrained already to take on this new task:

“The crux of the issue is therefore whether the court system should put itself in a situation of straining its already inadequate resources and modifying its traditional role in the legal system (not by merely judging, but by assisting litigants) so that individuals may accomplish, without a lawyer, a task which is admittedly best performed with a lawyer,” the Clay County association said in the letter.

“‘To hell with poor people’; that’s what that paragraph says to me,” said St. Louis County Circuit Judge Dennis Smith. “‘Courts exist for the rich. ‘ I don’t believe that. If you are poor and can’t afford an attorney, what are you supposed to do? I’m open to suggestion if any other attorney in the state has an idea of how to help these people.

 The comment period for the proposed rules ends July 1.



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