News and Tribune

Clark County

April 24, 2014

Success of Self Help Center in Clark County celebrated

Indiana justice speaks at facility during luncheon

SELLERSBURG — Indiana Supreme Court Justice Loretta Rush had high praise for the Clark Legal Self Help Center as she delivered the keynote address at its annual Patron and Supporter Luncheon on Wednesday.

“What you’re doing down here is phenomenal,” Rush told the gathering at Cricket’s Café. “I’m full of hope for the work you’re doing. Keep up the good work.”

The help center opened in the Clark County Courthouse lobby in May 2010. In 2011, phase II of the program saw the creation of a computer resource room where guests can access the Indiana Supreme Court website, allowing them to fill out their own court documents for filing.

“The Supreme Court really supports efforts like these,” Rush said. “People need good, solid access to the courts.”

No criminal cases are handled through the help center. Only civil cases, such as divorce, paternity, custody, name changes and eviction proceedings are addressed.

“A lot of times people don’t even know what kind of case they have,” Rush said.

The center does not provide legal advice, although those who qualify financially can be steered to organizations that offer assistance, and some of the attorney volunteers have been known to offer their services at reduced rates.

According to Kathryn Dolan, chief public information office for the Indiana Supreme Court, chief justice Brent Dixon, “feels strongly that people who go into court without a lawyer are not self-represented, they are unrepresented.”

“Absolutely,” agreed Rush. “People are at a real disadvantage when unrepresented. That’s why this help center is so important. They’re giving guidance to help people navigate the system.”

In her remarks to the gathering at Cricket’s, Rush reported that the Supreme Court informally polls judges across the state to see what their biggest concerns are.

“The No. 1 concern of judges statewide is the rising number of people unrepresented in the courts,” she said. “Number two is methamphetamines.”

Rush was appointed to the Indiana Supreme Court by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels in September 2012. She served as Tippecanoe Superior Court 3 judge for 14 years prior to her appointment, and spent 15 years in general practice before that.

A brief video explaining the program was debuted at the luncheon. The production was created and donated by New Albany-based Promedia Group.

Rush presented Dan Williamson, owner of Promedia, with two books as a thank-you gift for his assistance. The video will be posted on YouTube.com.

The Clark Legal Self Help Center is staffed by volunteer lawyers and students from the University of Louisville, Indiana University Southeast and Ivy Tech.

“You talk about an eye-opener,” said Dan Moore, Clark Circuit Court No. 1 judge, who started the Self Help Center. “You’ll have people crying because they think they may lose custody of their child. It really gives them a grasp of what they’re getting into.”

While the program is specifically aimed at low-income users, all informational pamphlets are available at no cost to all comers.

Kentucky has a similar program in every county, but Indiana has only four throughout the state. The Indiana Supreme Court has “an excellent website though,” Rush said.

“People can really get a lot of help there. [The help center] has just taken it a step further. And with it being located in the courthouse, that’s a big help.”

“There are so many people who really cannot get legal assistance,” said Jill Oca, chair of the program’s board of planners. “I know an attorney — most people don’t.”

“People get scared,” Rush said. “The idea is to help people.”

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