On November 23, Judge Scott Walden announced the opening of a new internet-based Adams 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 must come to court and represent themselves. 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.
“We want everyone to have an attorney to represent them in court, if at all possible. In a number of instances, people are not able to afford an attorney. Our local legal aid, Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance, has far more requests for service than it can meet either with its staff attorneys or its volunteer attorneys,” said Judge Walden. “In those situations where people must come to court on their own, the legal self-help center will provide them with useful information and pleadings for a number of simpler civil legal problems,” he 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 Adams County Legal Self-Help Center will provide helpful information and guidance, including legal forms,” Judge Walden said.
The Circuit Clerk’s office will also begin handing out a sheet to unrepresented litigants which identifies possible sources to obtain legal help. “The clerks in my office meet people each day who need legal information and until now, we did not have a place to refer them,” said Randy Frese, Circuit Clerk. “Because we are not lawyers and because we are a part of the court system, we cannot provide assistance to these people,” he said. “With the new legal self-help center, we now have a place where people can go to get information on simpler civil legal problems,” Frese said. “This will be a great help to many people,” he said.
“The Adams County Bar Association is proud to have been a part of setting up this new legal self-help center. As lawyers, we understand that going to court on your own can be a very intimidating and confusing process. We are happy to support the provision of solid legal information to self-represented litigants in our county that the new legal self-help center will provide,” said Chris Scholz, President of the Adams County Bar Association. “While many of our members volunteer their services to Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance, we know that we cannot meet the demand for representation by lower income people,” he said.
For those people who do not have access to a computer, a public access computer will be available at the Quincy Public Library during regular business hours. Librarians will help new users navigate the internet-based 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 http://adams.illinoislegalaid.org.
“The Quincy Public Library 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 the Adams 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 Dolan, Director of the Quincy Public Library. “Our board and staff are very pleased to work with the Adams County Circuit Court in making this new resource available,” she said.
The center is a result of the collaboration of a number of people and organizations in the county including the Adams County Circuit Court and the Circuit Clerk’s Office, the Adams County Bar Association, the Quincy Public Library, the Adams County Board of Supervisors, Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance and Quanada. The funding for the legal self-help center comes from a grant from the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation through Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation. The Illinois Equal Justice Foundation receives its funding from the Illinois General Assembly.
The Adams County Legal Self-Help Center (http://adams.illinoislegalaid.org) will feature a welcoming video from the Chief Judge of the Eighth Judicial Circuit. The homepage also lists the hours of operation and address of the Quincy Library. Six legal topics of most interest to self-represented litigants are listed on the page. 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 such a dedicated planning committee in setting up this new legal self-help center,” said Joseph A. Dailing, Executive Director of the Illinois Coalition for Equal Justice. “The involvement of Chris Scholz of the Adams County Bar Association and the leadership of Judge Mark Schuering and Judge Scott Walden were key factors in getting other members of the community to become involved with the process,” he said. “Everyone worked hard to ensure the successful establishment of the new center,” Dailing said.
“Illinois Legal Aid Online will continue to maintain the website on which the Adams County Legal Self-Help Center is based,” said Teri Ross, Outreach Coordinator for Illinois Legal Aid Online. “We are constantly trying to improve the website, add new information and update current information on a regular basis,” she said. “We are proud to help Adams County set up its own center and we look forward to an ongoing relationship with the court and the library,” Ms. Ross said.
The Adams County Legal Self-Help Center is the thirty-seventh 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 Planning Committee of Adams County.
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