Change can appear Radical

At 11:59 p.m. Monday the comment period for the South Carolina SRL Simple Divorce Packet drew to a close.  The final comment slid in right under the deadline – at 11:53 p.m.

From the initial response when the packet was posted, I have to admit I expected a lot more response than the 16 comments from 14 people. The comment period was officially open from April 2, 2009 until June 1, 2009.

Thank you very much to the people who did respond. Most of the comments were insightful and helpful and the Commission will review the information and in some cases, may implement some of the suggested changes.

And thanks to those of you who express doubt about the effectiveness of these documents. You may not believe me, but your comments were and are welcome.

As with most any area within the practice of law, the process of developing these forms (and the others to come) is not an easy task. Law is gray. There are rarely easy answers.

As attorneys we are trained to analyze and guard our clients against pitfalls. Our letters are carefully crafted. Our court documents must provide sufficient information to make our case. Each word holds specific meaning. Each sentence should be clear and concise. There should be no doubt about the repercussions.

So yes, I am glad you expressed concern about people going into court without our protection. In my perfect world, we would have attorneys available for all who enter our hallowed courtrooms.

But in reality, it’s much different.

  • In reality, many people are losing their jobs, their homes, their lives as they know it.
  • In reality, many people are unable to pay a $50 consultation fee, much less the $450 fee that one of you offered.
  • In reality, many people are unable to pay the $150 filing fee for their divorce.
  • In reality, many people have been entering the courtrooms on their own without attorneys, without having attended one of the many legal clinics offered by South Carolina Legal Services or the South Carolina Bar.
  • In reality, forms are already available online – some for free, some for a price.
  • In reality, videos are already available online to teach people how to file on their own.
  • In reality, people have a right to file on their own, with or without attorneys.

With or without attorneys, really? REALLY!

Section 35 of the Judiciary Act of 1789:

And be it further enacted, That in all courts of the United States, the parties may plead and manage their own causes personally or by assistance of such counsel or attorneys at law as by the rules of the said courts respectively shall be permitted to manage and conduct causes therein. And there shall be appointed in each district a meet person learned in the law to act as attorney for the United States in such district, who shall be sworn or affirmed to the faithful execution of his office, whose duty it shall be to prosecute in such district all delinquents for crimes and offences, cognizable under the authority of the United States, and all civil actions in which the United States shall be concerned, except before the supreme court in the district in which that court shall be holden. And he shall receive as compensation for his services such fees as shall be taxed therefor in the respective courts before which the suits or prosecutions shall be. And there shall also be appointed a meet person, learned in the law, to act as attorney-general for the United States, who shall be sworn or affirmed to a faithful execution of his office; whose duty it shall be to prosecute and conduct all suits in the Supreme Court in which the United States shall be concerned, and to give his advice and opinion upon questions of law when required by the President of the United States, or when requested by the heads of any of the departments, touching any matters that may concern their departments, and shall receive such compensation for his services as shall by law be provided. (emphasis added)

The radical move of adding a packet for people to represent themselves in court may not be quite so radical. After all, the concept of appearing pro se or representing oneself is over 200 years old. But it is change. And change is . . . well . . . change, scary, different, not the same, not operating the same as usual.

Thanks again to all who commented. Your input really is of value and very much appreciated.


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