Eastern Shore Libraries Help Prepare the Public
for Self-Representation in Civil Court
Salisbury, MD — October 1, 2007) Funded by a federal grant, the Eastern Shore Regional Library (ESRL) will train library staff on how to handle legal questions and provide legal information and resources to the general public to aid adults in representing themselves in civil court.
"The purpose of the grant is to help adults make informed decisions about representation in court for civil cases," said Raineyl Coiro, ESRL administrator. "By visiting a public library on the Eastern Shore, the public will be able to acquire information that will help them to decide whether or not they need to seek legal counsel before going to court," Coiro said. "Information concerning referrals to private attorneys, Pro Bono or legal aid, will also be available."
It is important for people to have the resources they need to assist them in accessing the court system, and the Maryland Judiciary and the other ESRL partners are working together to make this possible, Coiro said. "We're excited to be working with the courts and legal aid associations because we understand that an informed public is a better served public."
The "Get Ready for Your Day in Court at Your Library" project is a partnership between ESRL, the Maryland Legal Assistance Network (MLAN), the Maryland Judiciary and other legal associations. Through this grant, income eligible adults who are interested in representing themselves in civil proceedings can receive free legal advice from the Legal Aid Bureau or Pro Bono attorneys, an electronic and hard copy resource guide, materials on landlord-tenant law and other resources from ESRL's eight county member libraries.
Library staff will be trained on how to provide legal information to people and use the various legal tools available to answer questions from the general public, in order to help prepare adults for their day in court. Resources that will be available to self-represented litigants will include an online diagnostic tool for landlord-tenant law, legal Web sites to download forms and other law publications. Resources will also be made available in Spanish.
Plans are also underway to schedule ongoing evening legal information sessions on such topics as lead paint issues in landlord/tenant disputes, and collection rights and exemptions available in civil judgments.
The Maryland Judiciary is very supportive of this partnership, because it will help the public be better prepared when they enter the courtroom, said Administrative Judge of the District Court (Second District) Judge John L. Norton III. "As judges, we understand how important it is to for people who will be representing themselves in court to make the most effective use of the court system."
Starting Oct. 1, the Somerset County Library system will provide public access computers to complete and download forms on family related issues, landlord/tenant disputes and civil claims. A Somerset County self-help legal clinic will be held in the Somerset County Circuit Court Annex. Public transportation makes stops at the Somerset County libraries, Circuit and District Courts. The Dorchester County Library will conduct their clinics starting Oct. 12 and will hold the workshops on the second Friday of each month.
The "Get Ready for Your Day in Court @ Your Library" is a project made possible by a grant from the U. S. Institute of Museum and Library Services and awarded by the Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Library Development and Services. It is being administered and implemented by the Eastern Shore Regional Library in partnership with the Maryland Legal Assistance Network. For more information on the "Get Ready for Your Day in Court @ Your Library," visit www.esrl.lib.md.us.