Abraham Lincoln purportedly said that a person who represents himself in court has a fool for a client.
But that fabled advice from the 16th president doesn’t prevent people from exercising his or her right to represent themselves.
For that reason, court officials say it’s important to have a professional staff member who can help self-represented litigants make a case according to the prescribed rules and protocols.
And that, in turn, is where Halle Cox comes in.
Cox, director of the Kane County Law Library & Self Help Legal Center, has been reappointed for the third year in a row as the self-represented litigant coordinator by the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice and the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts.
The appointment is the result of a grant program created to support the establishment of a statewide network of trial court staff members to evaluate and address the evolving needs of self-represented litigants in civil courts.
According to the commission, duties of the self-represented litigant coordinator include “facilitating 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 as they become aware of other Coordinator’s successes throughout the state; they will share resources and strive for the best possible consistent service across circuit courts in Illinois.
Along with the appointment, a self-represented litigant coordinator may be awarded monies to cover expenses related to the development of new resources and services for self-represented litigants.
The 16th Judicial Circuit was awarded $19,500 for Cox’s proposed goals of purchasing equipment, databases, and software to better meet the needs of self-represented litigants in remote appearances, e-filing, forms programs, legal information, interpreters, and call-in attorney assistance and to create clear, concise, plain language, and timely information in English and Spanish.
Another crucial role of Cox in her year-long appointment is to provide onsite coordination for the 16th Judicial Court’s second award in 2020 — a full-time JusticeCorps Fellow in Illinois.
The fellow’s main focus will be helping the general public navigate the legal system and to make courts a more welcoming and less intimidating place for those without lawyers.
Sixteenth Judicial Circuit’s Chief Judge Clint Hull said he was excited to learn that Cox was reappointed a third time.
“She and her staff at the Kane County Law Library have done an outstanding job of helping self-represented litigants navigate the Kane County legal system,” he said. “The grant money along with the assignment of a full-time JusticeCorps Fellow will allow the 16th Judicial Circuit to continue to raise the bar in helping self-represented litigants.”
SOURCE: 16th Circuit Court news release