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Conference Background and Agenda

 

From the Judicial Council of Georgia

The committee’s initiative began in June, 1997, to insure that all persons have meaningful access to Georgia courts. Their vision was to find ways to most effectively make information available to potential litigants by providing access to case and statutory law and general information about the type of relief that is available through the courts; to provide and promote alternative methods of dispute resolution; to provide information as to why legal representation is important; to compare the costs of services; to help direct and obtain free legal services or reduced fee arrangements and for persons who wish to proceed with self representation, information regarding procedural aspects of the judicial process, from filing to presentation of the case in court. Judge H. Gibbs Flanders, Jr., Chairperson, William E. Cannon, Jr., Judge G. Bryant Culpepper, et.al.  

1.      Court Forms with Instructions  

Courts should provided standardized forms and detailed instructions for actions identified as high legal need areas for pro se persons.  These could include domestic relations, small claims, landlord-tenant and guardianship actions.  Efforts should be made to simplify the forms (in terms of format and plain, English language) and provide detailed instructions for filing and service.  The forms could be made available in paper form at a court office or electronically through computer technology. 

2.      Instructional Pamphlets, Brochures, and Videos

3.      Self-Service Centers

These service centers could provide access to standardized forms with detailed instructions for certain types of actions.  In this instance, the self-service center would not have to provide legal advice, but could simply provide directions as to the forms available.  The center could also provide at list of attorneys identifying their specialty, standardized information to assist persons desiring to confer with an attorney, and sometimes fee listings for specific more routine case types.  Information concerning mediation services and outside social service agencies is frequently available at the center. 

4.      Self-Service Centers With Assistance

In addition to the above services, this service could also provide on-site consultation of approximately fifteen minutes with an attorney to identify issues, help perform an initial case evaluation, and answer general questions.  A fee could be charged for this type of consultation or services could be provided by volunteers from local bar associations. 

5.      Legal Clinics

A legal clinic is an efficient method of providing assistance to persons because it allows for interaction between persons and attorneys.  Clinics could be staff with either volunteers or students.  

6.      Pro Bono and Reduced Cost Legal Services

With the increase need for free legal services this report found that it is important to go beyond legal services and develop newly designed pro bono programs.  The bar associations could help to respond to this increased need by emphasizing the importance of pro bono activity. 

7.      Legal Hot Lines, Integrated Telephone Referral
  
Systems

These services could be provided for free through various legal services organizations. 

8.      Unified Family Courts

The unified family court has been viewed as providing a more responsive and comprehensive forum to address family law issues related by persons who frequently appear pro se.  The concept is that in a unified family court system one judge one social service team will be able to more effectively and efficiently address the family law, housing, employment and income maintenance issues which would otherwise be addressed in separate courts and social service agencies. 

9.      Education and Research

Given the increase in number of pro se litigants it is desirable that the judges and other court personnel become informed as to the various strategies to effectively manage pro se issues.  For example, in a number of states, the Chief Justice has formed bodies to study “Access to Justice” issues in a broad context with pro se litigant concerns a component of the study.  These bodies have consisted of not only judiciary and bar but also representatives of the legislative and executive branch, private businesses. law schools, private foundations, and lay persons.

Reproduced from:  

PRO SE LITIGATION COMMITTEE JUDICIAL COUNCIL OF GEORGIA  

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS – DECEMBER 10, 1998