One Democratic candidate for Monroe 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 judge seat 1, said there are a large percentage of civil cases where 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 press release.
She added there are a number of free or low cost legal services within the county that parties in civil cases can use. Among them are District 10 Pro Bono through its Counsel in the Court program, Indiana Legal Services and Justice Unlocked that provides individuals whose annual income is up to 425 percent of the federal poverty level legal representation using a sliding fee scale.
Yet, even with these services there is still a need for more, she said. In Monroe County, 42 percent of the 601 domestic relations cases last year involved at least one party not represented by a legal counsel. Of 3,750 small claims cases last year, 2,556 plaintiffs had legal representation on the case and 95 cases, involving one or more defendants, were represented by counsel on the case.
“Among judges I have spoke 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 effects all citizens of Monroe County who utilize the civil justice system.”