One Democratic candidate for Monroe County Circuit Court judge is seeking to expand legal service options for self-represented parties in domestic relations and small-claims cases.
Holly Harvey, one of four candidates for the Circuit Court 1 judge’s seat, said there are a large percentage of civil cases in which unrepresented parties had to navigate the legal system on their own or against those who have legal assistance.
“For me, the disparity of legal representation between parties exists as an access to justice issue, and addressing the needs of self-represented parties helps both the parties in leveling the playing field, and the court, in increasing the efficiency of resolving cases,” Harvey said in a news release.
She said there are a number of free or low-cost legal services in the county that parties in civil cases can use.
Among them are the District 10 Pro Bono Project through its Counsel in the Court program; Indiana Legal Services; and Justice Unlocked, which provides individuals whose annual income is up to 425 percent of the federal poverty level with legal representation, using a sliding fee scale.
Yet, even with these services, there is still a need for more, Harvey said. In Monroe County, 42 percent of the 601 domestic relations cases last year involved at least one party who was not represented by a legal counsel. Of 3,750 small-claims cases last year, 2,556 plaintiffs had legal representation and 95 cases involving one or more defendants had representation by counsel.
“Among judges I have spoken to, both locally and statewide, the adjudication of civil cases involving self-represented, or pro se, parties continues to pose one of the biggest challenges for the effective delivery of legal services through the courts,” Harvey said in the release.
“I hope to have the opportunity to address this issue as judge, as it affects all citizens of Monroe County who utilize the civil justice system.”