ATJI plays vital role in producing film for litigants representing themselves

Seattle University School of Law students, through the Access to Justice Institute, helped King County Superior Court develop an instructional film aimed at helping self-represented litigants navigate their way through court.

Titled "Your Day in Court: How to Make Sure Your Voice is Heard in King County," the film is designed to walk individuals through the process of preparing their legal paperwork and appearing in court.

The idea for such a film first emerged from a family law work group focused on language barriers chaired by Judge Mary Yu. Support from judges grew, and eventually the project was funded by Trial Court Improvement Funds made possible through the Justice in Jeopardy Initiative.

"The film helps our court fulfill our responsibility to ensure equal access to justice," Judge Yu said. "In addition, we believe the film will help judges make better decisions because we hope the film will help improve the quality of information that we receive from parties."

Judge Yu thanked the law school for its assistance. Several ATJI student volunteers worked on the project, which was led by Helen Rickey '09, who also serves as a judicial extern for Judge Yu.

"This was a fitting project for the Access to Justice Institute, which aims to empower students to succeed in high-quality, potentially transformative experiences that call for the direct application of their legal education to addressing real world social justice needs," Director Diana Singleton said. "Making sure that all litigants, particularly those who are unable to afford an attorney and have no choice but to represent themselves, have access to and an understanding of the judicial process deepened the students' lifelong commitment to ensuring justice."

Rickey said the project was one of the most fulfilling during law school.

"I was able to engage in efforts to increase access to justice, as well as learn more about how to navigate the courthouses as a young attorney," she said. "King County offers an amazing array of services, and our main goal is to inform the community of how to access the resources that are available.

The Civil Legal Needs Study published by the Supreme Court's Task Force on Civil Equal Justice Funding documented that more than three-quarters of all low-income households experience at least one important civil legal problem each year and, of these households, nearly nine in ten do not get the legal help they needed to solve that problem.

Paul Sherfey, chief administrative officer of the King County Superior Court said, "The judges of the King County Superior Court were very concerned about the growing number of self-represented litigants or those proceeding pro se and they wanted to find a way to provide information without jeopardizing their neutrality."

The film is available online. Copies of the film are available for those who don't have access to the Internet.

For more information, contact:

Paul Sherfey
King County Superior Court
Chief Administrative Officer
Katherine Hedland Hansen
Director of Communications
Seattle University School of Law

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