Care for some legal assistance? Help yourself
Nearly 400 people in Mesa County have taken advantage of a program that advises people on how to represent themselves in court.
The self-help center in the courthouse, 125 N. Spruce St., can offer advice on a range of issues. Persons facing criminal charges, however, still need to seek representation.
“The whole point is to help people get started so you don’t get dismissed right off the bat,” Velvet Johnson, who coordinates help for self-represented litigants, said.
Areas in which the self-help center can assist include a range of civil cases, from divorces, custody, protection orders, small claims and probate matters, Johnson said.
The self-help center is a place in which people can look for information “and leave feeling like they have an understanding of what they need to do,” Johnson said.
The center, which will have a clerk on duty who can direct litigants to the information appropriate to their case, has touch-screen monitors and necessary forms.
“We also work with Colorado Rural Legal Services and the pro-bono program, so we can steer people in the right direction,” Johnson said.
Courts statewide have seen an increase in the number of people seeking to represent themselves, court officials said, noting that about 75 percent of people involved in divorces now represent themselves.
“Part of it is the economy,” Johnson said. “There are things you have to pay for and sometimes an attorney is not in the cards.”