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Delaware Docket Newsletter

DELAWARE COURTS: FAIRNESS FOR ALL TASK FORCE PROVIDES NEW WAYS
TO ASSIST SELF-REPRESENTED LITIGANTS

The Delaware Courts: Fairness for All Task Force, which issued a report in October 2009, made a number of recommendations to ensure fairness in the court system, including ways to assist self-represented litigants. The following are two efforts which have been recently completed as a result of the Task Force’s recommendations.

VIDEO PROVIDES INFORMATION ON THE COURT PROCESS

A new video designed to help self-represented litigants has recently been made available on the internet through the efforts of the Delaware Courts: Fairness for All Task Force and the Administrative Office of the Courts. Following two cases, one in the Justice of the Peace Court and one in the Family Court, the video shows the steps involved from the filing and answer to the complaint or petition through preparing the case for trial, and culminating in the court hearing. The video is broken into separate sections so that litigants can watch the section that is applicable to them at the time of viewing. The video can be found on the Judicial Branch website at http://courts.delaware.gov.

Because several agencies testifying before the Fairness for All Task Force indicated that many self-represented individuals have difficulty in understanding written materials, the Task Force believed that a video could be of great benefit to such individuals as well as a means to allow all self-represented litigants to better understand the court process and what is expected of them when they come to court. The video was filmed and edited by a Delaware film company, Timeline Media.

INTERACTIVE FORM HELPS TENANTS WITH CLAIMS FOR RETURN OF SECURITY DEPOSIT

A new tool is now available, free of charge, to help litigants file claims for the return of their security deposit in the Justice of the Peace Court. Using graphics to guide an interview process, the filer is asked questions relating to their claim and the program automatically fills in the complaint, including the statement of facts, using their answers. Upon completion, a document ready to be filed in court can be printed out by the litigant. Part of a planned series, the new interactive form was developed by the Administrative Office of the Courts and the Justice of the Peace Court, working with a private programmer. The form can be found on the Justice of the Peace Court website and the website of the Legal Services Corporation of Delaware, which is also a partner in this effort.

Next on the list to be developed is a form to guide filers of summary possession actions, with other forms to follow after that. Both the existing and planned forms rely on A2J Author software development, which is supported by grants from the Chicago-Kent College of Law, State Justice Institute, Center for Access to the Courts through Technology, Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction, and Legal Services Corporation.

For further information, contact Chris Sudell.

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