Circuit Court launches free legal advice for low income self represented litigants in collection court

Released On 07/27/2005

Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans and First Municipal District Presiding Judge E. Kenneth Wright, Jr. announced the court will offer free legal advice, information, and referrals to low income pro se litigants appearing in the Supplementary Proceedings and Miscellaneous Remedies Section of the First Municipal District, informally known as collection court, beginning September 12, 2005.

The Collection Self-Help Desk will operate in room 1401 of the Richard J. Daley Center as a joint project of the Coordinated Advice and Legal Referral Program for Legal Services (CARPLS), the Circuit Court of Cook County, and the Chicago Bar Foundation. The hours of operation will be Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The Supplementary Proceedings and Miscellaneous Remedies Section of the First Municipal District, or collection court, hears post judgement debt collection matters. Persons who appear in collection court are either debtors who had a court judgement entered against them requiring them to pay a specified amount of money that they owe, or creditors who are trying to collect and are seeking assistance from the court to enforce the judgement.

Pro se litigants are those who appear before a court without the aid of an attorney, representing themselves. Between 100 and 200 persons appear in collection court daily, and of those debtors appearing, a staggering 98 percent are low income and self represented, according to court estimates.

"The increased volume of self represented litigants overall poses a considerable challenge, and has underscored the need for court-sponsored assistance. We have found that on-site help desks are an effective way for the court to address that need, helping to ensure a level playing field for both pro se and attorney represented litigants," said Chief Judge Evans.

"The court’s partnership with the Chicago Bar Foundation and CARPLS is an invaluable tool in helping to meet the needs of the self represented," added Evans.

The Collection Self-Help Desk will offer legal advice and information for those court proceedings that arise after a judge has entered a collection judgement. Three distinct statutory proceedings, commonly known as supplementary proceedings, are available to assist a creditor in enforcing a judgement. One proceeding is citation to discover assets, in which debtors are required to appear before the court for an examination of their assets. Wage deduction or garnishment, which is the process in which a creditor seeks to have an employer pay over to the creditor a portion of the debtor’s wages, is another type of proceeding. A third option is non-wage garnishment involving money belonging or owed to the debtor by a third party, such as bank accounts.

Persons seeking services from the Help Desk will be screened by Desk staff to determine low income eligibility. The Desk will be staffed by one (1) CARPLS staff attorney, two (2) CARPLS law student interns, and one (1) volunteer attorney from the Young Lawyers’ Section of the Chicago Bar Association. All Desk staff and volunteers received training from CARPLS.

Referral to an attorney or a legal aid agency will be recommended in those cases where self representation is not in the pro se litigant’s best interest.

Funding for the six-month pilot program has been made available from the Chicago Bar Foundation which donated a $10,000 grant.

Associate Judge Thomas Moore Donnelly and Associate Judge Sanjay T. Tailor are assigned to the Supplementary Proceedings and Miscellaneous Remedies Section.




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