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Civil District Court opens ‘self help’ resource center

23rd May 2011   ·   0 Comments

Sensing a need because of the high number of people who represent themselves in court, Orleans Parish Civil District Court, in conjunction with Clerk of Court Dale Atkins, the Louisiana State Bar Association (LSBA) and several other local legal service agencies, now offers a Self Help Resource Center.

Located on the fourth floor of the New Orleans Civil Courts building, the Self Help Resource Center (SHRC), is designed to serve as a starting point for people who must navigate an unfamiliar and complex court system to resolve legal problems on their own.

Self help desk volunteers, primarily law students from both Tulane and Loyola law schools and pro bono lawyers, assists self represented litigants with a variety of informational and referral services free-of-charge. If those seeking assistance legal issues are complex, they will be referred to outside legal services such as Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, The Pro Bono Project and Catholic Charities Project SAVE.

The walk-in litigants also have access to basic legal information, online resources, referrals to additional services, brochures, court forms and documents, and courthouse information. The volunteers help litigants understand and complete court forms when those forms are available and provide access to legal information online and print materials. When forms are not available, or when

LSBA President Michael A. Patterson says the self help desk assists pro se litigants in all civil matters but adds, “The most common issues for which help is sought are domestic issues, including protective orders, domestic violence, custody, visitation, child support and spousal support.” He goes on to say, “The number of self-represented litigants in Louisiana creates significant challenges for courts in administering justice and for litigants in their access to justice.”

The SHRC is modeled after similar help desks that have been implemented in courts across the country. It is open on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 1pm-3pm, and on Fridays from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.

This article was originally published in the May 23, 2011 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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