Florida Legal Access Gateway provides online help for pro se litigants
Green Cove Springs – A pilot program conducted by the Clay County Clerk’s Office is now approved for statewide implementation. Clay County Clerk of the Circuit Court Tara S. Green is encouraged by the recent response from the state’s Supreme Court Commission on Access to Civil Justice. “We look forward to providing the Legal Access Gateway service to our citizens once fully implemented statewide. In the meantime, our Clerk’s Office public website’s new Self-Help Center page already provides many court forms, instructions and service links to help citizens more easily navigate our court system,” Green said. Once implemented, the Florida Legal Access Gateway site will provide even more assistance to individuals choosing to represent themselves in court (pro se) and will be added to the Clay County Clerk’s Office website. /self-help-center/
The Florida Legal Access Gateway, a service designed to help the public navigate the legal and court system in certain civil matters has been cleared for statewide launch. The program began on a limited, experimental basis in October 2016 at the Clay County Clerk of the Circuit Court’s office, offering pro se litigants online self-help forms and instructions for landlord-tenant issues and simplified dissolution of marriage. In some cases, people were referred to legal aid or other pro bono services. Seven months later, after Clay County Clerk Tara Green recruited a panel of attorneys, “low bono” legal services were added, allowing people to seek counsel from an attorney for $30 for a 30-minute session.
Last week, the state Supreme Court’s Commission on Access to Civil Justice approved making the system available in all 67 counties while adding more types of civil case self-assistance. The expansion will be overseen by the Florida Bar Foundation and the Florida Justice Technology Center, developers of the pilot program. According to the commission, more than 5,700 people visited the gateway site during the pilot program. Of customers who completed a survey, 100 percent said it was easy to use and 70 percent said they were satisfied with the service from the program. The online gateway was launched with a $500,000 budget derived from a bank settlement related to mortgage issues. The pilot program cost about $150,000 to design and implement. The commission anticipates the expansion can be accomplished within the $350,000 balance, with about $25,000 in recurring annual expense to maintain the statewide program.