Legal 'self-help center' opens at courthouse

Macomb County residents who need information about how to handle simple civil legal matters but cannot afford an attorney now have a new place to go for help — the Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center of Macomb County.

The center is located in the James C. Daner Law Library on the 5th floor of the Macomb County Court Building, 40 N. Main St. in downtown Mt. Clemens.
Michigan Supreme Court Justice David Viviano, who formerly served on the Macomb County Circuit Court bench, was scheduled to speak at the center’s grand opening today.

Among other things, visitors will be able to access computers and printers, and receive assistance using the Michigan Legal Help website in English or Spanish.

“We are pleased to be a part of the new Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center of Macomb County,” said Macomb County Circuit Court Chief Judge James M. Biernat, Jr. “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,” Biernat said. “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 center will be open to the public on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 1-4 p.m. All services at the Self-Help Center are free.

The center is the culmination of  work by the Michigan Legal Help Program and two partnering organizations — Baker College and Legal Aid and Defender Association, Inc.

Interns from Baker’s paralegal program will help visitors find what they need on the Michigan Legal Help website.

While they cannot give legal advice, the interns, or “navigators,” 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 students will be supervised by LAD staff members.

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, according to a news release issued by the group. 

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.
Forms to request a foreign language interpreter as well as fee-waivers are available on the site.

The Macomb center is the third Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center in the metropolitan Detroit area. The others are located at the Penobscot Building, Suite 1300, 645 Griswold in Detroit and at the Adams-Pratt Law Library in the Oakland County Courthouse in Pontiac.

“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.”

The Michigan Legal Help Program is funded by the Michigan State Bar Foundation, the Michigan Supreme Court and through grants from the Legal Services Corporation.

Comments

  1. No comments
Sign in to post a comment »