Kendall County Court to Offer Assistance to Unrepresented Litigants

Kendall County Court to Offer Assistance to Unrepresented Litigants

Judge Timothy J. McCann and Circuit Clerk Becky Morganegg today announced the opening of the new online Kendall County Legal Self-Help Center at a press conference at the courthouse in Yorkville. The new internet-based legal self-help center will provide legal information to people who are unable to find a lawyer to help them with their legal matter. The online center includes articles on various civil legal problems, automated and non-automated court pleadings, non-court documents and models letters as well as videos and other information on many simpler civil legal problems of lower income individuals and families.

“In the courthouse, we have seen an increasing number of individuals showing up in court without an attorney. Many of these people are confused and intimidated by the court process, which can be complex,” said Judge McCann. “We hope that the new online center will alleviate some of the confusion and provide unrepresented litigants with usable legal information to present the facts of their case more clearly to the judge,” he said. “If at all possible, we encourage people to find a lawyer to help them but in many cases this is not possible,” Judge McCann said.

“This will be a great help to my staff as well,” said Circuit Clerk Becky Morganegg. “Every day in my office the deputy clerks see people who have a court matter but cannot find an attorney to help them. They are understandably upset because they have to come to court and often do not have a clear understanding of their legal problem or how the court system works,” she said. “We are not lawyers and cannot provide legal advice to these people. We are very happy to have a place where we can refer these people to find good legal information which can help them in presenting their case to the judge,” she said.

Individuals with access to the internet can use the center twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week. For those individuals who do not have access to a computer, public access computers will be available at five public libraries in the county. These libraries include the Kendall County Courthouse Law Library as well as the Yorkville Public Library, the Plano Community Library District, the Charles B. Phillips Public Library in Newark and the Oswego Public Library District at both the Oswego and Montgomery locations. All of the libraries participated in the planning and development of the new center.

“Public libraries are important sources of information for the public. We are very happy that all of the five public libraries in the county have agreed to participate in this important project,” said Joseph A. Dailing, Executive Director of the Illinois Coalition for Equal Justice. “Their participation ensures that anyone who needs to use the website will be able to do so,” he added.

“We know that the legal self-help center is not an adequate substitute for a skilled attorney,” said Kathleen Finn, a staff attorney with Prairie State Legal Services. “However, as funding for legal services declines, the legal self-help center will become an increasingly important resource for lower income individuals who cannot get an attorney. At Prairie State Legal Services we try to help as many people as we can but the demand always exceeds our ability to help everyone,” she said. “We are glad that this back-up resource is available to residents of Kendall County,” she concluded.

The Kendall County Legal Self-Help Center was developed under the leadership of Judge Timothy McCann with the assistance of a planning committee whose members included Becky Morganegg, Circuit Clerk, Nicole Kollins, Kendall County Law Librarian, Michelle Pfister, Yorkville Public Library, Sarah Skilton, Oswego Public Library District, Deanna Howard and Jeanne Valentine, Plano Community Library District, Lynette Heiden, Charles B. Phillips Public Library, Kathleen Finn, Prairie State Legal Services and Michelle Meyer and Sheila Gray of Mutual Ground. Technical support and assistance was provided by the Illinois Coalition for Equal Justice and Illinois Legal Aid Online. Illinois Legal Aid Online has developed and maintains the underlying website on which the Kendall County Legal Self-Help Center is based.
Start-up funding was provided by the Illinois General Assembly through the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation and Prairie State Legal Services.

The Kendall County Legal Self-Help Center is the eighty-fourth such center to be opened since May, 2007. The center is available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week at Kendall.IllinoisLegaLaid.org for individuals with computers with internet access.

Submitted by: Illinois Coalition For Equal Justice on 07/31/2012