Helping hand from bar could give leg up to pro se litigants

November 16, 2013

The agenda for yesterday’s monthly meeting of the Hood County Bar Association included discussion about possibly utilizing a county building and attorney volunteers to offer a free legal clinic to the public.

The clinics, said Bar Association President Daniel Webb, could help pro se litigants be better prepared when they represent themselves in court.

The Bar Association is to be commended for this plan of action.

They are under no obligation to provide professional assistance to those who cannot pay them. The State Bar of Texas should also be recognized for its just-released “Care Kits” to county Bar Associations containing everything needed to sponsor pro bono legal service clinics.

The Commissioners Court should approve the Bar Association’s use of the meeting room at Annex 1 for these clinics. Webb said it is likely the group will request that site.

Members of the court deserve to be commended for their increased concern for those who cannot afford attorneys.

Most people simply don’t have the money for quality legal representation, whether they are dealing with a divorce, a tenant-landlord situation or a problem with creditors.

The legal clinics being discussed by the Bar Association would give members of the public an opportunity to ask questions about the law and legal proceedings and to speak one-on-one with a lawyer about their case.

According to Webb, members of the Hood County Bar Association, on average, donate 42 hours per year in pro bono work and 118 hours per year for reduced fee cases. They handle divorce cases for Mission Granbury clients trying to leave abusive relationships.

Attorneys in Hood County charge between $200 and $350 per hour.

Even at the low end, these fees are simply more than many people can afford. They need help.

There are many ways in which our nation’s justice system is broken, and the inability of John and Jane Doe to afford a lawyer when they need one is just one of the problems.

We appreciate that the Hood County Bar Association is trying to help solve that problem, and we trust that county elected officials will help smooth the way.

The Hood County News will assist in the effort by publicizing any free legal clinics hosted by the bar once they are scheduled.

It will be up to the public to take it from there.

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