Michigan Legal Help self-help center of Alcona County now open

People in northern Michigan 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 (MLH) Self-Help Center of Alcona County. This new center is located at the main branch of the Alcona County Library, 312 W. Main St. in Harrisville, and offers support, advocacy, referrals, resources and education to residents of the surrounding areas. The Self-Help Center is open to the public during normal library hours: Monday Thursday 9:30 a.m. 7 p.m., Friday 9:30 a.m. 5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. 3 p.m. All services are provided free of charge.

The MLH Self-Help Center of Alcona County is the eleventh self-help center to open in the state-wide network. Visitors to the Center can use the MLH website in English (MichiganLegalHelp.org) or Spanish (AyudaLegaldeMichigan.org) to get information about common legal problems. The library staff serve as trained Navigators who help visitors find the resources they need. 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. Visitors who have prepared court forms at the SHC can simply walk down the street to file them at the 81st District Court or the 23rd Circuit Court, both located at 106 Fifth Street.

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 that provide tools to help people navigate the legal system effectively. Visitors can access free articles, court-approved forms, and toolkits designed to enable them 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.

"We are very pleased to be a part of the Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center network," said Alcona County Circuit Court Chief Judge Laura A. Frawley. "The 23rd Judicial Circuit is one of the largest circuits in Michigan, and serves the residents of four rural counties: Alcona, Arenac, Iosco and Oscoda. In areas with low population and high unemployment, there are real limitations on access to legal representation or legal aid clinics and other services. By getting legal information and assistance from the Self-Help Center at the Alcona County Library, people will be better equipped to bring their cases before the court, which will improve their experiences as well as make court operations smoother." She adds, "Individuals from any of these counties are also welcome to visit our Self-Help Center, or the one at the Oscoda County Public Library."

By clarifying county-specific procedures for filing paperwork properly and providing clear answers to common questions, the MLH Self-Help Centers around the state are essential to ensuring access to justice for self-represented litigants. The standardized forms and automated interview process benefit the courts by educating the general public and improving accuracy and efficiency in court proceedings.

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, individual rights and education. In addition to the statewide network of Self-Help Centers, Michigan Legal Help collaborates with lawyers, court personnel, librarians, community organizations and volunteers from around the state in building a strong network of public legal support.

"We are delighted to be working with so many community partners in Alcona County and throughout the state," said Michigan Legal Help Program Director Angela Tripp. "The addition of the Self-Help Center of Alcona County gives us the chance to reach even more people in northern Michigan who need legal self-help tools. We are so excited about the growth in the Self-Help Center network state-wide, and about this new location in Alcona County, First of 83!"

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.

Published: Tue, May 31, 2016