May 25, 2018
Dear Justice Corner:
A Self-Represented Litigant (SRL) came to court for the first time without any documents and the other party has not been served yet. What information, if any, can I give the SRL?
Dear Judge Tellemwhattodo:
Judges can always provide SRLs with information about court processes and resources. The first thing that the judge and court staff should do is identify what resources exist and determine ways to publicize those resources and if any new resources should be created to better assist the SRLs.
Depending on the courthouse there may be a help desk, self-help center, navigator, or reference books (e.g. IICLE) available to help SRLs. Some court's websites have information about court procedures and lists resource materials for SRLs. (e.g. on the Cook County web site under Adoption and Mental Health, there are resources for SRLs, and FAQs). A judge may also wish to develop handouts that provide helpful information or direction (e.g. a handout about you expect of SRLs in court like bringing all court documents each time, or a handout explaining the different types of services and how they could accomplish each one).
The Access to Justice Commission and AOIC Civil Justice Division can help judges and court personnel identify available resources, develop handouts, and create any needed resources for state-wide use, or templates that courts can amend with pertinent local information. We can assist in communicating the information in plain language and possibly translating to other languages, too. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with requests for material development. You can also email your questions, comments, concerns, suggestions, or stories about self-represented litigants.
-Justice Corner, Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice Court Guidance and Training Committee
- Chief Judge Michael J. Sullivan, McHenry County
- Presiding Judge Clarence M. Darrow, Rock Island County
- Presiding Judge Sharon M. Sullivan, Cook County
- Chief Judge Kevin P. Fitzgerald, McLean County
- Judge Jo Beth Weber, Jefferson County
- David Holtermann, Lawyers' Trust Fund, Chicago
- Joseph Dailing, Legal Aid Consultant, Rockford