Michigan Legal Help opens area self-help center

People in Macomb County who need information about how to handle simple civil legal matters but cannot afford an attorney have a new place to go for help the Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center of Macomb County, located in the James C. Daner Law Library on the 5th Floor of the Macomb County Court Building at 40 N. Main St. in Mt. Clemens. Here, visitors can access computers and printers, and receive assistance using the Michigan Legal Help website in English or Spanish (www.MichiganLegalHelp.org / www.ayudalegaldemichigan.org ).

As of October 22, the center is open to the public on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 9:30am - 12:30pm and 1-4 p.m.

All services at the Self-Help Center are free.

The Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center of Macomb County represents the joint efforts of the Michigan Legal Help Program and two partnering organizations: Baker College and Legal Aid and Defender Association, Inc. Interns from the Paralegal Program at Baker College serve as trained Navigators who help visitors find what they need on the Michigan Legal Help website. While Navigators cannot give legal advice, they can answer questions about court practices and processes, help visitors locate and complete the SCAO-approved forms available on the website, and find referrals to a lawyer or community service providers. The Navigators are supervised by staff from the Legal Aid and Defender Association, Inc. in the Macomb County office.

The Michigan Legal Help Program is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering people to participate in the justice system through a website and individual self-help centers. The website, www.MichiganLegalHelp.org, provides tools to help people navigate the legal system regardless of income, ability or culture. Visitors can access free articles, court-approved forms, and toolkits designed to enable people to resolve their legal problems independently. Many court forms can be filled out online using a simple question and answer interview format. The website can help visitors look for a lawyer in their area if they need more assistance; it also includes information about local community services and details about the court(s) where a visitor's legal issue may be handled.

The Spanish-language version of the website, www.ayudalegaldemichigan.org, was launched in September 2014 in an effort to reduce language barriers in access to justice. Forms to request a foreignlanguage interpreter as well as fee-waivers are available on the site. Michigan Legal Help collaborates with lawyers, court personnel, librarians, community organizations and volunteers in building a strong network of public legal support.

"We are pleased to be a part of the new Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center of Macomb County," said Hon. James M. Biernat, Jr., chief judge of the 16th Circuit Court. "Being in the law library will enable residents to easily access free legal forms and information right here in the courthouse. Many of the people who appear in our courts can't hire attorneys to represent them. Making the Michigan Legal Help website readily available, then adding extra help from the Self-Help Center navigators, is a great way to help people prepare themselves for court."

The Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center of Macomb County is the third Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center in the metro Detroit area and completes a triad of county resource centers. The Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center of Wayne County is located in Smart Detroit, Suite 1300 of the Penobscot Building, at 645 Griswold in downtown Detroit. The Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center of Oakland County is located in the Adams-Pratt Law Library in the Oakland County Courthouse in Pontiac.

Currently, the MLH website has legal information about family law matters, protection from abuse, housing issues, consumer law, expungement, public benefits, income tax issues, estates & guardianships, and individual rights. In addition to the three metro Detroit Self-Help Centers, there are six other local Self-Help Centers around the state.

"We are excited to be working with so many community partners in Macomb County," said Michigan Legal Help Program Director Angela Tripp. "The expansion of the Self-Help Center network through the entire metro Detroit area is a wonderful achievement and gives us the chance to reach even more people who need legal help."

Published: Thu, Oct 22, 2015