CJ Letter to the Editor Commenting on “Access to Justice” written by Helen Dienes

Courtouse Doors1Here is a letter to the editor from the Courier Journal regarding pro-se representation and access to the Courts written by Helen Dienes, a non-attorney member of the Kentucky Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission:

Access to justice

LOUISVILLE 40220 — I write as one of the non-attorney members of the Kentucky Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission to thank the Courier-Journal for raising the visibility of self-represented litigants in civil legal proceedings in the article of Dec. 30. Chief Justice John D. Minton, Jr. was thinking of these very people when he announced in 2010 the creation of this commission. We grapple with the reality that in a country that daily pledges commitment to “liberty and justice for all,” 8 out of 10 Americans of limited means cannot afford an attorney for the kinds of non-criminal legal problems that all families experience at one time or another.

Your article focuses on the special dilemmas and challenges experienced by those Kentuckians who cannot afford an attorney in family matters such as divorce, child custody, and distribution of family resources. The commission, in collaboration with many community partners, has developed some resources for people in this situation.

• We offer a new handbook, “Your Day in Court: A Self-Represented Litigant’s Guide to the Kentucky Courts” designed to take some of the mystery out of the courtroom and explain basic legal terminology — available at your circuit court clerks’ offices throughout the state or online at www.courts.ky.gov.

• Louisville public libraries now have numerous online legal resources, and many librarians specially trained to help pro se litigants shape their legal questions to research their concerns effectively.

• Louisville’s Legal Aid Society website (www.laslou.org) provides information, forms, and connections with other relevant organizations for all the common non-criminal legal problems clients present. This website also includes schedules and registration information for the many legal aid clinics recommended in the C-J article.

These are only a few examples of the Commission’s work, with more resources in development. The Kentucky Access to Justice Commission has joined forces with the Kentucky and local Bar Associations, the state’s four Legal Aid Societies, and the Legal Services Corporation to ensure that all Kentuckians know that if they need help with a civil legal matter and cannot afford an attorney, there are resources to assist them.The attorneys who volunteer through the local bar associations to provide pro bono (free) legal services are major contributors to meeting the needs of those who otherwise would stand without assistance in the face of consumer fraud, domestic violence, family legal dilemmas, access to benefits, eviction or foreclosure, veterans’ concerns, end-of-life legal questions, and the other civil legal matters we encounter over the course of life. Why should the average Kentuckian care? Texas Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson said it plainly: “The increasing inaccessibility of legal services — for the poor, for even the middle class — undermines the rule of law for us all.”

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are inappropriate, offensive or off-topic.

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