Center Could Help You Defend Yourself in Court

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Byline: Russell Lissau Daily Herald Staff Writer

Representing yourself in court can be a tricky endeavor. There are confusing legal terms to learn, strict procedures to follow and volumes of case law that often need to be understood to prepare a case.

Lake County officials and a private agency that assists indigent litigants in Illinois want to make the practice easier by creating a self-help center for people who choose to represent themselves in legal matters.

The center, which will be housed in the law library at the main courthouse in Waukegan, could open later this summer.

"I think it's going to be extremely helpful," Court Administrator Bob Zastany said. "There is a population out there that will take advantage of this resource."

The self-help center will be the only one of its kind in the county. Only a few operate nationwide, officials said.

The project is the work of Lake County circuit court officials and Prairie State Legal Services, a statewide agency with an office in Waukegan that provides information and legal assistance to poor and elderly Illinois residents. The organization has received a $25,000 grant from the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation, a nonprofit group that funds programs designed to increase access to legal information and assistance, to help pay for the effort. Prairie State will share the money with the county.

The county's law library is on the first floor of the governmental center at 18 N. County St. The new self-help center will be designed to help litigants find the information they need to properly represent themselves in court, an undertaking that can be complicated and confusing.

"Some people can do OK on their own, and some people can do OK with some help," said Linda Rothnagel, the managing attorney for Prairie State Legal Services. "But other people can't do it. …