Legal help centers open in Pinellas County to offer affordable assistance

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – October 10, 2007 – Pinellas County, FL – Citizens who “go it alone” in court, can get affordable legal assistance before they go to court. Two Self Help Centers opened on Monday, Oct. 8, to aid citizens who represent themselves in court, also known as pro se’ litigants, Ken Burke, Clerk of the Circuit Court, announced today.

A collaborative effort of the Clerk’s Office, the Sixth Judicial Circuit and the Community Law Program, the Self Help Centers will be open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., and will enable citizens to schedule an appointment to consult with an attorney; use specialized software to assist in filling out eviction, divorce and/or small claims forms for a fee plus the form-packet fees; or purchase other civil court action form packets. Documents can be notarized and/or copies made for a fee, according to Burke.

Attorney appointments may be scheduled for a minimum of 15 minutes to a maximum of one hour in 15-minute increments, at a rate of $1 (one dollar) per minute. There are no income eligibility requirements to use the centers.

“Anyone may use these centers,” said Burke. “I believe this will be incredibly beneficial to those who have too high an income to use the pro bono [free] legal services. The legal system can be daunting, and it is very reassuring to consult with an attorney before you file your paper work just to ensure you have filled everything out correctly. Not to mention, citizens can also just come in and use our software to help fill out forms.”

The two locations are the Clearwater Law Library, 324 S. Ft. Harrison Ave. and the St. Petersburg Law Library, 545 First Avenue North. Fees must be paid when the appointment time is scheduled. Payments must be cash, check or money order. Refunds will not be issued for missed appointments, according to Burke.

For more information visit the Clerk’s website at http://www.pinellasclerk.org/SelfHelp.htm or call in Clearwater (727) 464-5150 or in St. Petersburg (727) 582-7941.

The Clerk of the Circuit and County Courts is a Constitutional Officer who is elected to serve a four-year term by the voters of Pinellas County. As Florida’s third largest trial court, the Sixth Judicial Circuit is recognized as one of the most efficient trial courts in the nation. The Community Law Program was formed by a group of local attorneys as a non-profit corporation to expand access to the legal system for those financially unable to afford legal representation.

PHOTOS & CAPTIONS

Caption 1: (UsingSoftware-hires.jpg) The Clerk's Office's Civil Court Records Departmental Training Specialist, Gail Hutcherson, demonstrates the new software in the Self Help Center.

Caption 2: (Software-hres.jpg ) Citizens may use specialized software to assist in filling out eviction, divorce and/or small claims forms in the new Self Help Centers located at the law libraries in the Old Clearwater Courthouse and the St. Petersburg Judicial Building.

Caption 3: (KenBurke-SH-hires.jpg) Ken Burke, Clerk of the Circuit Court, collaborated with the Sixth Judicial Circuit and the independent Community Law Program to establish the new legal assistance centers.