Circuit Judge Michael Kiley, Circuit Clerk Susan Arthur and Shelbyville Public Library Director Shelley Koehler, announced the opening of the new Shelby County Legal Self-Help Center at a press conference at the Shelbyville Public Library. The new online legal self-help center will provide legal information, including court pleadings, non-court documents and letters, videos and other information on civil legal problems for people who are not able to find a lawyer to assist them. The website provides information on the most common legal problems of lower income individuals and families.
“While anyone may use the online legal self-help center from any computer connected to the internet, many people do not have a personal computer with high speed internet access,” said Judge Michael Kiley. “The public access computers at the Shelbyville Public Library will ensure access to the legal self-help center for these people when they need it,” said Judge Kiley. “No specific legal advice is provided at the legal self-help centers,” he continued. “Only general legal information is provided and the user must decide how to use the information in court. For specific legal advice, the unrepresented litigant will need to consult an attorney,” Judge Kiley said.
“Every day there are people who come into my office who must go to court but who cannot afford to hire an attorney,” said Circuit Clerk Susan Arthur. “Until now we have had nowhere to send these people when Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance has not been able to represent them,” she said. “Many people do not understand how the court system works nor do they know much about their legal problem,” Ms. Arthur continued. “With the new Shelby County Legal Self-Help Center, individuals will be able to find information about their legal problem and learn how to present their case to the judge, if they take the time to research and learn,” she said.
“Over the last ten years, the number of individuals coming to court without an attorney has continued to grow throughout Illinois,” said Stacie Colston Patterson, Outreach Coordinator for Illinois Legal Aid Online, which developed the website. “There are simply not enough legal aid or pro bono lawyers to represent all of these people. While the legal self-help center is not an adequate substitute for an attorney, it does provide some basic information on simpler legal matters that should help unrepresented individuals navigate the legal system,” she said. “The content on the site is written by Illinois lawyers. Our organization’s goal is to use technology to reduce or eliminate barriers to the justice system that lower income people often face,” she concluded.
“The Shelbyville Public Library is pleased to be a part of this important project to help provide legal information to people who cannot find an attorney to represent them,” said Shelley Koehler, Director of the Shelbyville Public Library. “It is part of our mission to be a resource for people seeking information and today much of that information is available online,” she said. “For those people without their own internet-enabled computer, our public access computers will provide the necessary connection to this online legal information center,” Ms. Koehler concluded.
The Shelby County Legal Self-Help Center was developed under the leadership of Judge Michael Kiley and Circuit Clerk Susan Arthur. Also serving on the planning committee were Shelley Koehler, Director of the Shelbyville Public Library, Attorneys John Freeman and Amanda Ade-Harlow and Susie Kensil from DOVE. The planning committee was assisted by
Stacie Colston Patterson from Illinois Legal Aid Online and Joseph A. Dailing from the Illinois Coalition for Equal Justice. They provided technical assistance and support.
The Shelby County Legal Self-Help Center is the eighty-first such center to be opened since May, 2007. The center can be found at Shelby.IllinoisLegalAid.org. The underlying website has been developed and is maintained by Illinois Legal Aid Online, an Illinois nonprofit organization.
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