Trial Court Opens Court Service Centers, Offers Small Claims Videos Online in Eight Languages
Innovative Services Help Self-Represented Litigants Navigate Court System
BOSTON, MA -- The Trial Court continues to expand the services it offers to people with and without legal representation by opening the state’s first Court Service Centers at the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse in Boston and the Franklin County Courthouse in Greenfield. Both centers have helped hundreds of people since opening this summer.
Court Service Centers offer numerous resources to the general public and attorneys, including individual assistance with preparing pleadings, court forms and documents, access to public computers and workstations, and interpreter services. Managed by Trial Court employees, with assistance from trained volunteers, the centers also provide contact information to community resources, legal assistance programs, and social service agencies. Onsite law librarians are available to provide assistance with legal research.
“Over the past decade, the Massachusetts court system has experienced a dramatic increase in the number of people representing themselves in court – especially for housing, small claims, and family-related matters,” said Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey. “The new Court Service Centers and online resources are a vital part of the Trial Court’s efforts to enable greater access to justice for people who have matters to bring before the court.”
The centers provide information about other programs available at some courts that are tailored to help self-represented litigants, such as mediation services and Lawyer for the Day programs. Court Information Desks will continue to help the public with directions and other very basic services. The Court Service Centers are open during regular court hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except legal holidays.
The needs of the community have driven the development of the Court Service Center concept, which strives to take a customer-focused approach in addressing the issues of those coming to the courts. The centers are a product of the combined work of Trial Court and community representatives, including Rosie's Place, the first women-only shelter in the country.
“Rosie's Place believes that the Court Service Centers will significantly assist self-represented litigants – who often include the women we serve,” said Sue Marsh, Executive Director of Rosie's Place. “We are proud to support the Court Service Center in Boston by funding a portion of its efforts and have assigned one of our AmeriCorps attorneys to volunteer on an ongoing basis. Our commitment to the center furthers our mission to ensure that all people are treated with dignity and respect.”
As part of the effort to assist people coming to court without a lawyer, the Trial Court is also offering multilingual resources online, including a series of new self-help videos on how to prepare for Small Claims court. The how-to videos are available in eight languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Khmer, Portuguese, Russian, and Vietnamese, and are online here . The Boston Municipal, District, and Housing Court Departments of the Trial Court hear approximately 100,000 small claims cases a year, a majority of which are filed by or involve self-represented litigants.