It’s nothing new

By JohnnyZ on May 08, 2014//Leave a comment

Speaking about the Civil Justice Strategies Task Force to some folks with long memories and a lot more knowledge than I have:


“It’s nothing new.” 


Me: True, the Court and the Bar have wrestled wth these important issues before: how to help those who self represent? what kind of self-help can we provide? what works best? how do we get the information out to those who need it?


Them: There have been the Sargent Shriver pilot projects, self-help centers, programs for self-represented litigants, reports and action plans about integrating services for self-represented litigants into the court system, a 2004 Task Force that came up with a statewide action plan for serving self-represented litigants, and several committees and reports about model self-help this, pilot program that.


Me: All true, but I can say that the focus of this Task Force is on the justice gap — where a multitude of affordable lawyers are available for those people who can afford them, but they cannot seem to find each other.  At the same time, the Task Force is also addressing the issue of the crushing debtload of most law school graduates, and raising some solutions to that problem, too.


Them: Oh. That’s different.


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  1. One of the Unwashed, Self-Enlightened in Law

    Tuesday, May 13th, 2014


    Horrifying as this idea may sound to The Initiated among The Unwashed Multitudes, there is nothing taught in a Law School that cannot also be taught equally as well in a local High School. Law as a means of guiding proper social conduct and a method of obtaining justice is really not that difficult to grasp; it requires study, but in the school environment, study is the Name of The Game anyway. Nothing new here.

    It is only the mythical mists of the Unknown and the scowls of the legalist Pharisees that confuse the mind of inquiring people into believing they as non-lawyers know nothing of The Law and could never learn it. They can learn. With the opportunities offered by the many County Public Law Libraries in such “self-help” programs, librarians and their co-workers and contributors can help them do that.

    Some of the more specific technicalities of law maybe not be useful at that high school level, but the basics of finding and understanding The Law, and the correct use of procedural process and of evidence and appeals, can be easily grasped by young students at that pre-adult age, providing preparatory knowledge for future circumstances to guide them in the way to go. Such “self-help” knowledge and knowing where to go to learn more about it gives them a sense of self-empowerment, a step towards responsible adulthood, with the byproduct for society being a more knowledgeable citizenry having a better understanding of the true purpose and function of law and justice in general.

    If programs for individual, non-attorney “self-help” instruction is one of the several worthy goals of this and other Law Libraries, then enlightening these young minds now will provide more opportunity for their avoiding troubles in the future, and when troubled, the work of the attorney decided on representing them will be much lighter, and less costly for the client, since the client had already done what they could, best as could be done, to avoid the problem complained of.

    While “self-help” programs, at the Law Library or any non-law-oriented community group’s efforts, would appear to be taking “business” away from attorneys, actually, “self-help” may improve such practices, increase business, and raise the respect for each party higher than it is; and sometimes one may get the idea that neither side has much respect for the other. So “self-help” programs can work well and bring great benefits to everyone.

    This subject of local class instruction in basic law and “self-help” is something I have been mentioning to various legal entities for decades, not that I am a Big Somebody worth listening to, and yet have spent many hours teaching other non-lawyer acquaintances what were my own lessons learned in how to find and hopefully understand the law at this same and other nearby Law Libraries. I laughingly say I have squandered the flower of my middle age in the law library in the ever-consuming passion for acquiring this knowledge. Except for a few and poorly funded civic styled neighborhood organizations and the rare and constantly criticized publishing houses of such “self-help” programs and books, until recently it seems “self-help” had been looked down upon as unworthy of respect, and when accomplished by a non-lawyer, resulting only in an incompetence of the non-lawyer citizenry unadorned with the degree’d laurels of The Accepted Initiate graduates of Law School. So it is rather pleasing to see “self-help” gaining more interest, and, respect. Don’t give upon in it too soon.

    RJ Gardner

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