Helping Court Users Help Themselves
Music: "Follow Your Dreams" by Scott Holmes.
Every year, nearly 1.2 million people come to self-help centers in California courthouses seeking guidance with civil cases such as divorces, evictions, and restraining orders. While every county court has its own self-help center, nearly a dozen also use JusticeCorps students to help serve court users.
JusticeCorps is an AmeriCorps program that offers college students the opportunity to work in California superior court self-help centers and assist litigants who do not have an attorney. JusticeCorps students do not give legal advice, but merely help court users navigate the process. For example, JusticeCorps members may help limited-English speaking litigants fill out forms in order to file their civil case.
The Judicial Council estimates that in 75% of family law cases, at least one of the parties does not have an attorney, and 90% of tenants in eviction cases are unrepresented.
In 2004, the first JusticeCorps program was established in Los Angeles through a partnership between the California judicial branch and AmeriCorps. Because of its success in improving access to justice and outcomes for Californians who sought help at self-help centers, JusticeCorps expanded to the Bay Area in 2006 and San Diego the next year.
The Superior Court of Alameda County is one of five California superior courts in the Bay Area—including Contra Costa, Santa Clara, San Francisco, and San Mateo—that have JusticeCorps members stationed at self-help centers to assist self-represented litigants.
Since 2006, Bay Area JusticeCorps members have helped more than 120,000 self-represented litigants.