MPI Offers E Pluribus Unum Prizes for Immigrant Integration

From their website:

The E Pluribus Unum Prizes are a national awards program that provides four $50,000 prizes annually to exceptional initiatives that promote immigrant integration.

The awards are intended to recognize exceptional immigrant integration initiatives that help immigrants and their children adapt, thrive, and contribute to the United States or that bring immigrants and the native born together to build stronger, more cohesive communities.

This is exciting news for funding for some of our legal partners who work with immigrants, especially in this economy. Thank you MPI for offering us not only good empirical data on immigrants, but for offering this opportunity.

-RFW

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SRL Assistance Down Under

 

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A recent article in the Queensland Courier Mail cited Chief Justice Paul de Jersey as saying that while the number of self-represented litigants (SRLs) in the Australian state of Queensland is down from previous years, they still continue to be a burden on both the civil and criminal court systems. 

Queensland courts are experiencing problems similar to those here in the states when SRLs enter the courtroom:  time-consuming case presentation and unnecessary costs.

Chief Justice de Jersey stated that the percentage of SRLs in civil matters was down from 42.1% in the previous year to 32%. This sharp decrease is partially attributable to the Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House, Inc.’s Self-Representation Civil Law Service (SRCLS) which was established in 2007 to assist SRLs through the judicial process.

The SRCLS solicitors perform a myriad of services including: giving legal advice to SRLs,  drafting documents (e.g., pleadings and affidavits), conducting legal research, and referring appropriate cases for further advice, support, or representation.

SRCLS solicitors also assist SRLs with ancillary litigation-related issues including: understanding the process and procedures, observing courtroom rules and decorum and presenting their cases in the best possible light.

SRCLS will help any SRL, regardless of their means; however, the degree of assistance depends upon an SRL’s income and the extent to which the SRL can afford representation.

Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House, Inc. also provides a similar service to SRLs in the Court of Appeals.

While efforts exist to introduce qualified immunity for court staff when assisting SRLs and an indemnity policy, these have yet to come to fruition.

Despite the need for qualified immunity and an indemnity policy, the SRCLS is a great first step.  The numbers seem to indicate that the program does  help in furnishing an effective way of handling SRLs’ cases.

While I have yet to come across any programs quite as extensive as this one in the United States, many states have implemented self-help kiosks in their courthouses that provide information and some limited assistance to SRLs.  While these are surely helpful, compared to the SRCLS, they do leave something to be desired.

The SRCLS appears to be a more comprehensive compromise  between providing actual legal representation and not providing any assistance at all.  While SRLs clearly have more work and resonsibilities to take on when representing themselves, they are at least provided with the tools and directions they need to present their cases in a more advantageous manner.

-Alex

Oh Canada! Oh yeah.

When lawyers are only for the rich

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Self-represented litigants are on the rise, not only here in South Carolina or the United States, but also in Canada according to Macleans special report. Interestingly, law and legal practice in both Canada and the USA are based on English law. So it may not be so far-fetched to share common practices – including a rise in the number of self-represented litigants (SRLs or those previously known as pro se).

The premise of the Macleans article (part 1 of a 5-part series) is that as the economy has faltered, the cost of attorneys has remained and many people are now unable to afford to pay for legal representation. They turn to self-representation. And, what they’re seeing in Toronto is similar to South Carolina.

 As the cost of hiring a lawyer soars out of reach, unrepresented litigants are flooding the courts in unprecedented numbers. While no definitive figures exist, some judges, especially in family law, say it’s over 60 per cent in their courtrooms. Chances are, those numbers are going to rise, as the legal profession is now paving the way for even more people to appear without a lawyer. Self-help centres have sprung up in several provinces, and lawyers are offering limited services to entice clients who otherwise couldn’t afford them. Critics say it’s a cynical way to deal with the problem. Being your own lawyer is “like doing your own dental work or heart surgery,” says Judith McCormack, executive director of Downtown Legal Services, a law clinic for the poor, run by the University of Toronto’s law faculty. “It’s a desperate response.”

Historically in South Carolina we’ve not tracked numbers of SRLs, but we are in the process of doing so. The South Carolina Access to Justice (SCATJ) Commission has been working with Court Administration, County Clerks of Court and Judges at all levels to develop protocols for maintaining court efficiency while continuing to meet the needs of the public. Additionally we have been working with these entities to produce court-approved forms that are free to South Carolinians and that are more easily understood than traditional court forms.

The SCATJ Commission will continue to work on improvements for self-represented litigants as well as working with legal service entities and private attorneys to make equal access to justice a reality to all South Carolinians.

-RFW