Legal-easeA unique program extending to the county’s public libraries will begin putting more tools into the hands of people seeking legal help.
By: Mike Longaecker, Woodbury Bulletin
Brian Huffman believes today’s tough economic times have meant more people representing themselves in court than ever.
“This is challenging times for the public,” he said.
And navigating the legal world all alone can be just as daunting.
But Huffman, Washington County’s law librarian, said a unique program extending to the county’s public libraries will begin putting more tools into the hands of people seeking legal help.
Beginning in March, the Washington County Legal Library will present workshops to train the public in accessing and using legal forms and resources. The workshops will run until March 2012, Huffman said.
With services being spread countywide, Huffman believes the program is the first of its kind in Minnesota.
“None of my colleagues have ever heard of anything on this scale,” he said.
Huffman, assisted by volunteer lawyers, will bring a mobile computer lab to public libraries including Woodbury and Cottage Grove, where participants can dig into topics ranging from bankruptcy basics to child custody issues.
The program comes courtesy of a $25,000 federal “Librarians Lending a Hand: Teaching the Public How to Find and Use Legal Resources” program.
Funds from the grant will buy 10 laptops, projectors, a printer, software and marketing products.
The workshops will allow participants to research their legal options in a secure, non-intimidating atmosphere – the library – that Huffman said is familiar to most citizens “as apple pie and mom.”
The service will provide secure network connections users can access in the libraries’ private conference rooms.
“People often consider their legal realms to be somewhat confidential,” he said.
Huffman said that while the program will be steered toward Washington County residents, it will technically be open to any member of the public, including Wisconsinites.
“We’re not going to limit” who can attend, he said.
Dates for the workshops will be released in coming weeks, Huffman said.
Other topics covered through the program include:
-- Unmarried parents’ rights
-- Conciliation Court basics
-- Tenant/landlord basics
-- Consumer debt relief
-- Child support rights and obligations
-- Divorce basics
-- Expungement of criminal records
-- Basic estate planning and wills