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Public Library Initiative helps serve legal needs of self-represented litigants

Madison, Wisconsin - September 24, 2009

On Sept. 29, the Wisconsin Court System and the South Central and Arrowhead Library Systems will co-sponsor a special training session in Madison for librarians who assist people who represent themselves in court. The project’s goal is to foster communication between local courts and public libraries in an effort to better meet the legal service needs of self-represented litigants.

Leading the initiative is the Fifth Judicial District and the State Law Library in Madison. The South Central and Arrowhead Library Systems have generously agreed to co-sponsor and host the September 29 program, which is aimed at informing public library staff about the various court-related services and information currently available to assist self-represented litigants.

Featured speakers are Judge Maryann Sumi, Dane County Circuit Court; Gail Richardson, Fifth District Court Administrator; Jane Colwin, State Law Librarian; Carlo Esqueda, Dane County Clerk of Court; Louis Mineau, Rock County Register in Probate; Marsha Mansfield, UW- Law School Professor; and Ann Zimmerman, Wisconsin Court System State Pro Se Coordinator.

 In addition to these group presentations, the project has a second component in which the Fifth District Administrator and/or Registers in Probate and Clerks of Circuit Court will be making personal follow-up visits to each public library in their respective counties. The visits are intended to foster personal working relationships and to provide further information related to available circuit court resources.

This project is the latest in a series of steps the court system has taken to improve access to the courts for people who are representing themselves, and the program is being be replicated around the state in order to reach as many public librarians as possible. The program was first launched in the Tenth Judicial District (which covers 14 counties in northwest Wisconsin) in April of 2007.

"The Wisconsin Court System and public libraries have a strong, mutual interest in helping citizens access current and reliable legal information…It has been our goal to improve access to the courts for citizens who choose, for whatever reason, to come to court without the assistance of an attorney. Doing so improves public trust and confidence in the legal system," said Dane County Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi.

Ann Zimmerman
State Pro Se Coordinator
(608) 261-8297

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