• December 18, 2014

Coryell Co. moves funds to cover self-representation

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Posted: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 4:30 am

GATESVILLE — Coryell County commissioners on Monday voted 3-1 to provide help to pro-se civil litigants — those who represent themselves in court without legal counsel.

County Attorney Brandon Belt asked the commissioners to approve a plan by 52nd District Judge Trent Farrell and County Court-at-Law Judge John Lee to provide aid to pro-se litigants.

Under the plan, the county would pay a lawyer to work two days a month to help ensure that pro-se litigants have their cases in order before coming to court.

The lawyer would meet with the pro-se litigants on the first and third Friday of each month. At a rate of $525 per day, the plan would cost the county $12,600, Belt said.

The plan could be funded from the county’s $75,000 litigation fund, County Auditor Ben Roberts said.

The courts receive an average of 20 or 30 pro-se cases per month, mostly involving divorce or child custody, Belt said.

Because many of the pro-se litigants are not indigent, he said, they do not apply — or qualify — for Lone Star Legal Aid services.

Pro-se litigants put a costly and time-consuming burden on judges, court staff and the county clerk because their cases are not properly prepared, Belt said.

Due to legal and ethical constraints, judges cannot assist the litigants in correcting their casework, he said.

Commissioner Jack Wall cast the only vote against the plan, saying, “I’m just tired of paying these attorneys.”

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