May 23, 2019
Dear Justice Corner,
I am hoping to make the physical space of my courtroom more accommodating for self-represented litigants. What steps can I take?
- Judge EagerForEnvironment
Dear Judge EagerForEnvironment:
There are many steps that can be taken to make your courtroom more accommodating for SRLs. Here are some of our suggestions:
- Signage can convey important information (with whom to check-in, where to sit, courthouse and Clerk’s Office hours, etc.) and courtroom policies (turn off cell phones, no food or drink, no talking) so SRLs know what to expect when they are in court. Make sure that any signs are written in large text and placed where court patrons can easily read them.
- Handouts can be given to SRLs as they enter the courtroom or when they check-in. They can include any information SRLs would find helpful; for example, they could describe how the court call works, define unfamiliar vocabulary that might be heard in the courtroom, provide information for legal aid resources, or remind SRLs to not leave court without a copy of the order entered that day.
- SRL-friendly forms, such as the Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice’s approved standardized statewide forms, can be made available within your courtroom, saving SRLs the time of having to search online or locate a Clerk’s Office or Law Library.
- Prescription pads can be handed to SRLs as they leave, giving them a checklist of forms they must complete before their next court date.
To ensure comprehension, we recommend that any signs and handouts be written in easily understandable language in accordance with the Supreme Court Policy on Plain Language. If your courtroom services patrons do not speak English, you might consider creating these resources in other languages as well.
As always, please email your questions, comments, concerns, suggestions, stories about self-represented litigants, or requests for assistance from the Access to Justice Division in making or implementing any of these suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
-Justice Corner, Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice's Court Guidance and Training Committee
- Chair, Judge Jo Beth Weber, Jefferson County
- Presiding Judge Clarence M. Darrow, Rock Island County
- Presiding Judge Sharon M. Sullivan, Cook County
- Associate Judge Elizabeth M. Rochford, Lake County
- Chief Judge Michael Kramer, Kankakee County
- Justice Michael Hyman, 1st Appellate District
- David Holtermann, Lawyers' Trust Fund, Chicago
- Wendy Vaughn, Clinical Professor NIU, Member of Access to Justice Commission