Clerk of Courts Self Help Center to open April 18
Clerk of Courts Linda Doggett has launched a new service for Lee County residents, giving them easier access to self representation in civil court.
The county’s first Self Help Center will open its doors Wednesday, April 18, in the Clerk’s Office on the first floor of the Justice Center’s east entrance at 1700 Monroe St., in Fort Myers.
“We’ve partnered with local attorneys to provide citizens with low-cost attorney consultations to help them file small claims, evictions, and other civil mat-ters,” Doggett said. “The new center will give people the proper guidance they need to confidently represent themselves in court.”
The Self Help Legal Center will be equipped with eight computers and other technology such as scanners, as well as a staff to guide patrons along the way who may not be familiar with these online services.
“We urge people to use these online services to file documents and be prepared for their day in court. We have people who can help walk customers through these documentation processes and make sure they are prepared before representing themselves,” Doggett stated.
A huge part of this new program is the local attorneys from Florida Rural Legal Services that have partnered with the Clerk’s Office to provide consultations to people at an affordable rate, $1 per minute. Sessions will be 15 minutes each, with a maximum session of 30 minutes. Customers will be required to make a non-refundable payment for their session when scheduling.
“We see more and more people representing themselves in court; this may put them at a disadvantage to those who do have legal counsel. The gap is widening for those who have the means for legal advice, and we want to make sure the people of Lee County have access to these benefits if they cannot afford a full-time lawyer,” Doggett said.
Hours of operation at The Self Help Center will be Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. An attorney will be available by appointment or walk-in services Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. These meetings are only for recommendations and advice, these lawyers will not be able to represent those they meet with in court.
“The Self Help Center is designed to be a one-stop shop for a variety of legal matters,” Doggett said.
TurboCourt is an online system The Self Help Center is applying to help people with a wide range of civil matters, such as filing small claims and evictions. Customers will also be able to e-file court documents, get certified and notarized copies of documents, and summon other historical documents pertaining to their claim.
“Having the correct forms filed, and documentation submitted, is a big part of the claims process and we feel people may not be as well prepared for that as they should be. We don’t want to see people being taken advantage of or feel vulnerable because they were not adequately prepared. This is our way of providing the resources people need to stay on top of their legal process and make their experience move a lot smoother,” Doggett added.
More information may be found at LeeClerk.org.