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Details | State of Illinois Office of the Illinois Courts

Circuits receive grants to improve access for self-represented litigants


November 29, 2017

Hundreds of thousands of litigants appear in the Illinois courts without an attorney every year. The growing number of self-represented litigants in court is not unique to any one circuit, county, or case type. The vast majority of self-represented litigants are not self-represented by choice: most would prefer legal representation, but are unable to find or afford an attorney. Self-represented litigants—many who have little or no prior experience with the judicial system—pose a number of challenges for circuit clerks, judges, court staff, and other litigants, as well as for themselves. 

To address these challenges, the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice (“ATJ Commission”) and the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts Civil Justice Division (“AOIC”) recognize, given the size and diversity of Illinois, that local partners are critical to fully understand and address the needs of the self-represented litigant population. The ATJ Commission and AOIC have established a statewide network of court personnel to work collaboratively and creatively to identify new strategies for improving access to justice.

The goal of this project is to create, train, and support a statewide network of Self-Represented Litigant Coordinators ("Coordinators") based in courthouses across Illinois. Coordinators will serve as a bridge, linking their courthouses with others throughout the State to share ideas, develop new resources, and establish programs for assisting self-represented litigants ("SRLs").

The Coordinators will facilitate the sharing of resources and best practices across county lines and judicial circuits to more effectively address the self-help service gaps seen throughout the state. Coordinators will identify, develop, and implement new tools and resources in their local courthouses and will also work with other stakeholders to facilitate better communication and collaboration in addressing these issues. As Coordinators become aware of what their counterparts throughout the state are doing, they can learn from each other's successes, share resources and updates, and strive to provide the best possible service for self-represented litigants.

The ATJ Commission and AOIC reviewed applications earlier this month and selected the following judicial circuits to receive grants to support them in evaluating and addressing the evolving needs of self-represented litigants in their region of the state.

The awardees are:

  1. First Judicial Circuit: Brenda Sprague will serve all counties in the circuit by creating committees of self-represented litigants, attorneys, paralegals, and community members to discuss the needs of SRLs; providing professional training to legal professionals, the public, and SRLs; and increasing community awareness of available resources.
  2. Third Judicial Circuit: Angela Warta will serve both counties in the circuit by creating a self-help center in Bond county, changing the physical space and adding work stations in the Madison County self-help center, and improving distribution of standardized forms.
  3. Twelfth Judicial Circuit: Jeane Fillipitch will serve Will County by reconfiguring resources and equipment in the self-help center and creating user guides for e-filing.
  4. Fifteenth Judicial Circuit: LeAnn Brandenburg will serve Lee, Ogle, and Stephenson counties by appointing a resource person to rotate through the three counties and establish meeting space and equipment for SRLs.
  5. Sixteenth Judicial Circuit: Halle Cox will serve Kane County by developing family court 'prescription pads' for referrals, translating SRL resources into Spanish, expanding "Lawyer in the Library" to public libraries, and providing training on basic legal research.
  6. Seventeenth Judicial Circuit: Brian Buzzard will serve both Rockford and Boone Counties in circuit by creating and implementing a text reminder system for court dates and creating pictogram charts for family/divorce, OP, small claims, eviction cases.
  7. Twenty-First Judicial Circuit: Adrianne Haley will serve Kankakee County by translating resources into Spanish, creating self-help brochures and booklets, and ensuring resource distribution to all partners.
  8. Twenty-Second Judicial Circuit: Susy Huffman will serve McHenry County by facilitating an Early Resolution Program for Divorce cases with SRLs.
Please join us in congratulating the new Coordinators and encouraging their efforts to make Illinois courts better, easier, and more accessible for self-represented litigants.