Mothers Of Lost Children – Indiana

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Marion County Law Library Closes

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I am very sorry to see this resource for litigants close.  I hope the Central Library in Indianapolis can make the collection readily available. From the Indianapolis Star:

Budget cuts force law library to close

Limited self-help materials and aid now available to public at Central Library

Posted: January 2, 2010

Librarian Zoya Golban turned off the lights and locked the doors Wednesday at the Marion County Law Library for the last time.

The cozy repository for legal materials and publicly accessible computers on the third floor of the City-County Building will permanently close this year because of city budget cuts.

But the library’s closing, court officials say, won’t be the end of the help the center provided to the roughly 3,000 Marion County residents who represent themselves in civil cases each year.

Starting Monday, those self-represented (or “pro se”) litigants will be directed to an existing cluster of four computers at the Family Resource Center on the main floor of the City-County Building. There, they will be able to obtain help in finding forms they need to file in court and print documents — functions previously served by the law library.

Those who want to access books the law library offered will be sent to the Indianapolis-Marion County Central Library, which will take on a portion of the law library’s collection designed for people representing themselves in court.

In an online era when costs for printed legal materials are increasing, self-help centers are becoming more common models to serve pro se litigants.

Greg Hurley, an analyst with the National Center for State Courts and a member of the Self-Represented Litigation Network, said other places, such as Minneapolis and counties throughout California, have used the concept successfully.

But the new arrangements could create fresh challenges as the number of pro se litigants grows.

“That sounds like a model that could work if they have enough computers and one staff person is enough to do it,” Hurley said of the plans in Indianapolis. “The question mark is going to be whether they’re going to be able to handle the level of traffic that comes in.”

Court officials have some concerns about space limitations at the Family Resource Center, which already serves low-income litigants with divorce mediation in cases that involve children.

They are seeking a larger space to use in the future but haven’t secured one yet, said Marion Superior Court Judge Heather Welch, who oversees issues involving civil courts as the courts’ civil term chairwoman.

Library employees also will receive some training to help pro se litigants, but their resources are limited.

The library’s public computers have time restrictions for usage. And since the library’s staff has to answer questions on many different subjects, they can’t focus solely on people seeking legal information, said Laura Bramble, chief executive officer of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library.

“In the past, we could send them on to the Marion County Law Library as they need additional help,” Bramble said. “Now we won’t be able to do that.”

Another unanswered question is to what extent the library, which itself is facing budgetary challenges, will be able to update the books the county law library provides. Bramble said library staff would have to review how often the materials they receive need to be updated and at what cost.

Welch said the goal is for the new center to provide as many resources as possible to those who need them — and with limited funding. The cost of the new pro se center hasn’t been determined, but it will be far less than the $280,000 it would have cost to run the law library this year.

“Sometimes when funding is cut, there’s just not an option,” Welch said. “This is a positive way to help these people.”

For litigants such as Troy Davis, getting help with the court process is important. The Indianapolis man, who cannot afford a lawyer, went to the law library last week to find paperwork to file for emergency guardianship of his 17-year-old nephew.

Golban pointed him toward some sample forms for guidance. He left the library a little overwhelmed by the task before him of drafting his own form.

But without any assistance, he said, he would have been lost in a complex legal system.

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Written by mothersoflostchildren

January 7, 2010 at 1:22 am

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