More People Without Lawyers in Civil and Family Court
New Haven Legal Assistance one group that helps low-income residents
New Haven County Courthouse, Waterbury CT
Photo:Courtesy of Flickr CC by JimmyWayne
More People Without Lawyers in Civil and Family Court Cases
Some needing legal help find that their only option is to represent themselves
It's a growing trend seen in civil courts nationwide including in Connecticut
WNPR's Lucy Nalpathanchil has more on one of the legal aid groups in the state who help residents for free.
New Haven Legal Assistance has a multitude of clients..Some are on the brink of homelessness, some are immigrants with limited English skills. The nonprofit's Executive Director, Patricia Kaplan, says no matter a person's background, the courtroom can be an intimidating place.
"Do you want to go to court without a lawyer, I mean its nobody's first choice."
Yet, self representation is on the rise. Here in Connecticut Kaplan says eighty-five percent of family cases include one person who doesn't have an attorney. In civil court. It's sixty percent. Kaplan says there's a lot someone needs to know to navigate the legal system.
"Challenges start as you enter the courthouse, not knowing how to present yourself, not knowing how to addres the judge, not dkowing how to reaise objections, not knowing what your rights are niot knowing what you soudl be advocating for yourself."
Legal aid groups can help people whose incomes fall below a certain percentage. For those who don't qualify, Kaplan says legal servies groups in the state ad the connecticut judicial system partner to provide a useful info on online. One website is www.ctlawhelp.org
Kaplan says some courthouses in the state also have centers where people can go for help filing out certain paperwork, but not legal advice.
Legal aid groups in the state used to get money from Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts or IALTA but it went bust when the recession began. Now legal services relies on filing fees which the General Assembly has raised twice since 2008.