Op-Ed (Maine, RURAL)
Portland Press Herald (Maine)
March 17, 2014
Link to oped
Tags: Access to Justice Commissions, Family, Information Centers, Pro Bono, Pro Se/Self-Help, Seniors, Telephone Hotlines, Unbundling
Organizations mentioned/involved: Maine Justice Action Group (JAG)
The incidence of self-representation in court proceedings has increased many times over in recent years, and the trend shows no signs of abating. At the present time, in approximately three out of four civil cases in Maine, one or more parties involved do not have the assistance of a lawyer.
The Justice Action Group’s efforts have not been limited simply to low-income and elderly Mainers. Numerous initiatives have included efforts to facilitate access to legal support for middle-class litigants.
Improved rules for the provision of “unbundled” legal services – that is, focusing resources on just those events where a lawyer is needed – have allowed much greater access to justice, with correspondingly lower costs.
The Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project, Court House Assistance Projects and the recently inaugurated Lawyers in Libraries programs are but some of these efforts. The Maine State Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service (1-800-860-1460) offers all persons, regardless of income, the opportunity to consult for up to 30 minutes with a qualified lawyer for a $25 fee.
In addition, the Justice Action Group has recognized the many “how to” resources that are available to self-represented litigants, including a helpful book about divorce proceedings, authored by Maine judges, and an enormously helpful website – http://www.helpmelaw.org – that includes instructional videos, legal services providers, checklists and court forms.