Colorado Supreme Court
Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel
Promoting Professionalism. Protecting the Public.
Access-to-justice subcommittee looks to New York
A Supreme Court subcommittee studying the problem of pro-se litigants will study the Court Navigator Program, in which trained non-lawyers help steer people through the civil process.
By JAMES CARLSON
A subcommittee of the Colorado Supreme Court has for the moment turned its attention to a litigant assistance program out of New York state as another possible tool to address access-to-justice issues.
The Limited License Legal Technician Subcommittee decided at its fourth meeting in January to further study New York’s Court Navigator Program. That program provides specially trained non-lawyers to help litigants access and complete court forms, assist them with keeping paperwork in order, help them access interpreters, explain to them what to expect and the roles of each person in the courtroom.
The Honorable Fern Fischer, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for New York City Courts and the Director of the New York State Courts Access to Justice Program, will give a presentation on the Navigator program at the subcommittee’s next meeting on April 22, 2016 in the Supreme Court courtroom.
In 78 percent of Colorado family law cases, one party is not represented by counsel. In 53 percent of family law cases, both sides are self-represented. It’s not all by choice. Of those indigent parties eligible for legal aid, fully half are turned away by service providers because of lack of funding or resources. Colorado Legal Services, the main provider of civil legal representation, has roughly 50 attorneys to serve the eligible indigent population of nearly 900,000.
The Colorado subcommittee has been discussing limited license programs from around the country, including Washington state’s new Limited License Legal Technician. The LLLT was implemented in Washington in 2014. Unlike a Navigator in New York, an LLLT in Washington is allowed to provide limited legal advice in family law cases.
A Navigator-type program seemed to garner more support at the last meeting of the Colorado subcommittee, said Chairman Alec Rothrock, an attorney at Burns Figa & Will, so the subcommittee will focus its effort for now on that program. Rothrock said a Colorado program might look like New York’s or it might be structured differently. And he said that the discussion on the Navigator program does not preclude the subcommittee from looking again at the LLLT idea at future meetings.
The subcommittee meetings are open to the public. The next one, in which Judge Fischer from New York will present, will be at held at 12:30 p.m. on April 22 in the Supreme Court courtroom on the fourth floor of the Ralph L. Carr Judicial Center, 2 East 14th Ave., Denver, CO 80203.
James Carlson is the Information Resources Coordinator in the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel.