Volunteering

SERVING SELF-REPRESENTED LITIGANTS*

Every year, more than a million people represent themselves in Georgia courts. Litigants who are unfamiliar with the court system and its rules face negative outcomes with lasting consequences. Volunteers with Athens Access to Justice Initiative (AATJI) staff the Self-Help Office to answer visitor questions and help soften the intimidation of the courts. It is important for AATJI volunteers to give visitors accurate legal information without giving them legal advice.

HOW DO YOU DO THAT?

YOU CAN PROVIDE LEGAL INFORMATION

  • You may explain and answer questions about how the court works
  • You may provide them with the phone numbers and referrals to local lawyers, UGA Law clinics, and social services agencies or any other appropriate referrals
  • You may give them general information about court rules, procedures and practices and help them understand how the court process works
  • You may provide them with court schedules and information on how to get a case scheduled
  • You may provide them with information from their own case files
  • You may provide them with court-approved forms and court-approved instructions and explain them
  • You may answer questions about court deadlines and how to compute them

YOU CANNOT PROVIDE LEGAL ADVICE

  • Do not tell them whether their case should be filed
  • Do not tell them what words to use in their court papers or forms (but you can check papers for completeness and identify any missing forms or documents)
  • Do not tell them what to say in court
  • Do not give them an opinion about what will happen if they bring their case to court, but you can explain the court process to them
  • Do not talk to a judge or intercede on their behalf
  • Do not tell them their specific deadline or relevant statute of limitation

WHEN HELPING PATRONS, CONSIDER:

  • Legal information explains the law and the legal system in general terms. It is not case specific
  • Legal advice applies the law to a particular situation. It recommends the best course of action for that situation to achieve that person’s goals

*This information was adapted by the Judicial Council of Georgia Administrative Office of the Courts Access to Justice Committee which was reviewed by Steve Kaczkowski, Unlicensed Practice of Law Counsel for the State Bar of Georgia

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