FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Chief Judge Evans announces opening of Chancery Division Advice Desk
Released On 02/17/2004
Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans today announced that pro se litigants in the Chancery Division can receive free assistance with filling out court forms and understanding court procedures through the court’s new Chancery Division Advice Desk opening Wednesday, February 18, 2004, in the Richard J. Daley Center. The new program will also screen litigants to determine if they qualify for the appointment of counsel through the Chicago Bar Association’s Access to Justice Program.
Chief Judge Evans was joined by Chancery Division Presiding Judge Dorothy Kirie Kinnaird in praising the Chicago Bar Foundation, the Chicago Bar Association, and the Chicago Legal Clinic for their assistance and support in developing the Chancery Division Advice Desk.
"Our goal is to demystify the court process for pro se litigants who stand a better chance of presenting their cases if they can do so with the benefit of competent assistance and accurate information," said Chief Judge Evans. "Presiding Judge Kinnaird has worked hard with the Chicago Bar Foundation of the Chicago Bar Association and the Chicago Legal Clinic to develop this program, and we all anticipate substantial benefit to the public."
Located in Room 1303 of the Daley Center, the Chancery Division Advice Desk office will be staffed by volunteer attorneys from the Chicago Legal Clinic, which is also providing an on-site supervisor and clerical support. The office will operate Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Volunteer attorneys will have a minimum of three years of practice experience and have received training for the program.
Cases will be screened by Chancery Division Advice Desk volunteer attorneys to determine nature, complexity, and viability. Pro se litigants who wish to continue representing themselves will have court procedures explained to them and will be offered assistance in filling out court forms. Litigants who opt for legal representation, depending on their income levels, will either be referred to free or low-cost legal assistance organizations, or bar association referral programs. Other litigants may be referred to the Chicago Bar Association’s Access to Justice pro bono pilot program in which judges have the ability to appoint counsel, in appropriate cases, from a list of volunteer attorneys who have agreed to provide pro bono legal counsel for litigants unable to obtain representation.
Presiding Judge Kinnaird expects the majority of pro se litigants seeking Chancery Division Advice Desk services will have matters involving mortgage foreclosures, name changes, and appeals of administrative review decisions, although help will be available for all matters heard in the Chancery Division.
"The Advice Desk is an important step in improving the fair and impartial administration of justice in the Chancery Division," said Presiding Judge Kinnaird. "There is a concern among judges that pro se litigants are being misinformed by incorrect information about the rights of litigants and alternatives that are available. Both the public and the court benefit when pro se litigants are better informed and better prepared when they appear in court so that judges can use their time on the bench more efficiently and productively."