Self-Represented Litigation Committee

Self-Represented Litigation Committee

The Self-Represented Litigation Committee (SRL) was established in 2003 to study and address the challenges which self-represented litigation pose for court staff, the judiciary, and the practicing bar. The Committee is composed of judges, attorneys, and Judicial Branch administrative staff, as well as representatives from the Nebraska State Bar Association (NSBA), the Nebraska State Bar Foundation, legal aid organizations, law school civil clinics, and libraries. The SRL Committee has actively pursued its goal to ensure equal access to the courts while maintaining impartiality, dignity, and efficiency in the judicial process. The Committee’s many accomplishments over the past 15 years include: the creation of a judge/court employee training manual for working with self-represented litigants; the creation of an Online Legal Self-Help Center on the judicial branch website (including various forms and instructions); the development of a limited scope representation court rule; the establishment and support of self-help centers for litigants; and the implementation of productive partnerships with the NSBA, Legal Aid of Nebraska (LAN), the law schools’ civil clinics, and the state’s public and law school libraries.

Despite these efforts, with the increasing number of self-represented litigants and the demand being placed on our courts and staff, the Committee recognized the need to develop a more effective and comprehensive system and sets of procedures to provide optimal services to self-represented litigants seeking access to justice.

In 2015, the Committee held a strategic planning conference with a national consultant, and thereafter, created a five-year strategic plan which was approved by the Supreme Court. This strategic planning process included a comprehensive assessment of the unmet civil legal needs in Nebraska.

The Self-Represented Litigation Committee, chaired by Judge Frankie Moore, continues to develop and review court forms, as well as review and expand available website resources for self-represented litigants.  Work is currently in progress to expand the use of Limited Scope Representation.

Formal Subcommittees of the Self-Represented Litigation Committee

Forms & Instructions
The forms committee’s ongoing mission is to work to maintain the accuracy and relevancy of existing online forms. Requests for new form development are reviewed by the committee with careful consideration given to the needs of lower-income Nebraskans who would otherwise be denied access to the justice system. A complete list of forms available to the public can be found on the Nebraska Legal Online Self-Help Center on the Nebraska Judicial Branch website.

Library Partners
The Self-Represented Litigation Committee considers all librarians, public and legal, to be partners in the responsibility to provide the public with quality research and internet access to legal resources. The courts are now in the position to capitalize on expanded services to increase the availability of online services to individuals who represent themselves in court. The Committee remains committed to the education of and support of librarians across the state.

Self-Help Desks
Self-Help Desk Centers are located in several communities throughout the state. Each are operated by volunteer lawyers under the supervision of the Nebraska State Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyers Project. Centers focus on civil, mostly family law, cases. Legal information, assistance with forms, and brief legal advice is provided through Self-Help Desks which are open limited hours.

Approximately 95% of Self-Help Desk patrons are at or near poverty level.

Limited Scope Representation
The Limited Scope Subcommittee works to increase awareness of limited scope opportunities within the legal community and to communicate the benefits of limited representation to the public. The committee’s initial efforts revolved around amending Supreme Court Rules to authorize Nebraska attorneys to enter a “Limited Appearance” on behalf of an otherwise unrepresented party for a limited and defined purpose. Nebraska’s rules have been replicated by a number of other states, particularly Nebraska’s concept of automated withdrawal of counsel upon filing of a Certificate of Completion.

Other efforts include education seminars at joint meetings of judges and lawyers along with written materials in legal publications and on the Judicial Branch website. ‘Frequently Asked Question’ flyers for both litigants and lawyers are available on the Limited Scope Representation page.


Additional Services and Resources

Self-Represented Litigation Education for Court Staff and New Judges
Judicial Branch Education has developed a 10-hour course module for court clerks on interacting with self–represented litigants. The course, hosted on Judicial Education’s ‘blackboard’ system, is offered through Nebraska’s court certification program. The curriculum is based on the court employee manual, “Working with Pro Se Litigants” developed by the original members of the Committee on Self-Represented Litigation.

Education sessions on self-represented litigants are regularly offered during new judge and new employee orientation programs and taught throughout the regular, ongoing Judicial Branch education curriculum.

Self-Help Website
Resources, forms, and information found on the online self-help center are provided by the Nebraska Supreme Court’s Committee on Self-Represented Litigants as part of the Nebraska Supreme Court’s commitment to ensure that all Nebraskans have meaningful and complete access to the judicial system, including those Nebraskans who represent themselves.

June 2018