Lawmakers, Courts Consider Ways to Help People Who Can’t Afford Lawyers

Ahead of the next legislative session, lawmakers and legal service providers are looking for ways to make the legal process easier for those who represent themselves.

News Story (Texas)

Johnathan Silver
Texas Tribune
September 15, 2016

Tags: Courts, Justice for All

Organizations mentioned/involved: Texas Appleseed, Texas Access to Justice Commission (TATJ), Texas Legal Services Center (TLSC)


The staff attorney, Brett Merfish, said several court websites across the state offer little information, and in some cases information only helpful for the party bringing a suit forward. Zeroing in on debt claim cases, which involve 150,000 people in Texas, Merfish suggested lawmakers consider creating a uniform form for defendants that would allow them “to present their cases more accurately” and efficiently and put the process “in plain language.”

Other attorneys and advocates suggested streamlining services across the state. Trish McAllister, executive director of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, suggested establishing formal guidelines for judges, clerks and court staff for how they help people represent themselves. Randy Chapman, executive director of the Texas Legal Services Center, said free legal information should be available statewide.

His organization’s legal advice site has received more than a million unique visitors so far this year, he testified.