A county in southwestern Idaho plans to hire an attorney to help those helping themselves in civil court.
The Idaho Press-Tribune (http://bit.ly/vLZcMA) reports Canyon County commissioners approved a preliminary budget Thursday that includes $60,000 from the Idaho Supreme Court to hire an attorney to help people who are serving as their own lawyer in civil cases.
In criminal cases, the courts provide an attorney for people who can't afford to represent themselves. But that doesn't happen in most civil cases like small-claims lawsuits and divorces. Often, people who can't afford attorneys in those types of cases end up representing themselves, and that can get complicated for all the parties involved.
Third District Court administrator Dan Kessler says the new position will benefit the entire court system. Canyon County has had a recent spike in the number of residents representing themselves, tallying 800 such cases in July.
The 3rd District Court already has a court assistance officer to help people who are serving as their own attorney, but that person isn't an attorney and they serve the entire 3rd District, which includes Adams, Gem Canyon, Owyhee, Payette and Washington counties.
"In this economy we have some people who just can't afford an attorney," said Canyon County Clerk Chris Yamamoto. "They need some assistance. Having an attorney will enhance what we offer."
The Idaho Supreme Court, which oversees all of Idaho's state courts, has long had a focus on improving options for legal representation for people with limited means. In 1998, the state began an experiment in do-it-yourself legal representation in an effort to ease the burden on underfunded legal aid programs, opening a few offices across Idaho to help walk people through undisputed divorces and other relatively uncomplicated legal matters. Now dozens of such offices operate statewide, offering free court-approved forms for civil matters, instructional videos and brochures, and review of court documents before they are filed.
Source: The Idaho Press-Tribune