The Eureka Public Library District, the Illinois Prairie District Public Library and the El Paso Public Library announced today the opening of a new online legal self-help center for Woodford County. All three libraries and all of the branches of the Illinois Prairie District Public Library will serve as public access points for the Woodford County Legal Self-Help Center. The legal self-help center was developed to provide accurate information on Illinois law to the growing number of people who need to go to court on their own because they cannot find an attorney to represent them. Individuals using the self-help center will be able to access information about a wide variety of civil legal problems, including videos on going to court, court pleadings and information on other legal organizations. The website was developed and is maintained by Illinois Legal Aid Online, a nonprofit Illinois corporation.
“It would be ideal if everyone who has to go to court had an attorney to represent them but that is not the reality. In a number of instances, people are not able to afford an attorney and Prairie State Legal Services has far more requests for service than it can meet either with its staff or volunteer attorneys,” said Stacie Colston Patterson. “In those situations where people must come to court on their own, the legal self-help center will provide them with current legal information and pleadings for a number of simpler civil legal problems,” she said. “All too often, unrepresented people show up in court with little idea about how the court system works or what they need to do. For those people who are willing to take the time, the Woodford County Legal Self-Help Center will provide information on their legal problem and explain how the court system works,” Ms. Colston Patterson said.
For those people who do not have an internet-enabled computer, public access computers will be available at the three libraries during regular business hours. Librarians will help new users navigate the online legal self-help center. For those people who have access to a computer with an internet connection, the center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at Woodford.IllinoisLegalAid.org.
“The Eureka Public Library District is happy to be a part of this new collaborative project. Our role as a library is to provide information to people in a wide variety of areas. Having one of the public access locations for the Woodford County Legal Self-Help Center located in our library provides us with a new resource for our patrons, especially those people who have a legal problem or who may just need to know more about the law,” said Nancy Scott, Director of the Eureka Public Library Distrct. Carla Skare, Director of the El Paso Public Library and Grant Fredericksen, Director of the Illinois Prairie District Public Library, also expressed support for the project. “With the two other libraries and our library’s six locations, most lower income Woodford County residents should be able to find a public access location near their homes,” said Grant Fredericksen.
The center is a result of the collaboration of the three libraries, Illinois Legal Aid Online and the Illinois Coalition for Equal Justice. The funding for the legal self-help center comes from a grant from the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation through Prairie State Legal Services. The Illinois Equal Justice Foundation receives its funding from the Illinois General Assembly.
The Woodford County Legal Self-Help Center features a welcoming video from the Chief Judge Elizabeth Robb of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit. The homepage also lists six of the most common legal problems that lower income people most often encounter. Other legal information can be found by using the search bar at the bottom of the page.
“It has been a great experience to work with the planning committee in setting up this new legal self-help center,” said Joseph A. Dailing, Executive Director of the Illinois Coalition for Equal Justice. “Illinois Legal Aid Online will continue to maintain and update the website on which the Woodford County Legal Self-Help Center is based,” he said.
The Woodford County Legal Self-Help Center is the eighty-second such center opened in Illinois since 2007. Illinois Legal Aid Online and the Illinois Coalition for Equal Justice provided technical support and assistance to the Woodford County planning group.
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