Franklin County Municipal Court Opens Self-Help Center
For residents who can’t afford legal representation, navigating the court system can be intimidating.
At the Franklin County Municipal Court, those residents now have access to the new Self Help Resource Center, where, for those who qualify, there are resources to help in their self-represented civil case in municipal court.
“It’s the logistical matters that are tough for people to figure out on their own, so that’s what we’re trying to provide is the logistics of getting through municipal court,” Kayla Callahan, the staff attorney at the help center, said.
Callahan is working under a contract between the municipal court and the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Her role is not to provide legal advice, but to help provide information about a number of topics.
“Landlord-tenant, small claims, some debt collection, sealing of the records, and other consumer issues is our main focus right now. Also, providing general information about how to present yourself in court,” Callahan said.
The center is housed in a building adjacent to the Franklin County Municipal Court in downtown Columbus. There are free handouts on various legal topics available. Gene Edwards, legal research supervisor at the court, says for those who financially qualify, there are additional services.
“We have computer terminals set up that will be a really key component for people coming in wanting to explore sealing of their records because one of the chief challenges there is helping someone understand how to find their own records and evaluate for themselves whether or not they qualify or are eligible to apply,” Edwards said.
Edwards added the center has been a collaborative effort in the Franklin County legal community, with the start-up costs from the Columbus Bar Foundation, and an added court fee to generate operating funds.
“It’s really exciting to think about the kinds of additional resources or opportunities we can make available out of such a wonderful space like this,” he said.
“The Franklin County Municipal Court, the Moritz College of Law, the Franklin County Commissioners, and the Columbus Law Library Fund of the Columbus Bar Foundation are to be commended for collaborating on opening the center to increase access for justice for self-represented litigants,” Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said. “Not only is this initiative a great example of serving the public and demonstrating leadership by all involved, but it also implements one of the recommendations of the Supreme Court’s Task Force on Access to Justice.”