Maricopa County Superior Court program expands access to services

The AmeriCorps PACS program plans to recruit undergraduate students across Maricopa County to help litigants who will represent themselves in court.

Staff members at Maricopa County Superior Court are eager for the program to begin, as there are only seven employees in the self-service center.

About 171,000 people came through the self-service center last fiscal year.

Janet Barton, presiding judge of Maricopa County Superior Court, said the program will expand access to justice.

“More and more of our litigants are coming into court and can’t afford an attorney,” she said.

Barton went on to say that about 85-90 percent of family cases have at least one side that is self-represented.

Recruiters hope that students in the program will be able to assist in tackling tough legal language and processes.

The students will be tasked with providing customer assistance in finding court services, completing needed court forms and navigating the court processes.

Shawn Haught, deputy director of the Law Library Resource Center and an Arizona State University alumnus, said Dean Jonathan Koppell of ASU’s College of Public Service & Community Solutions endorsed the program.

While Haught said the program is focused on helping self-representing litigants navigate the legal process, he also stressed that the program is about providing a sense of comfort in a stressful time.

“When people walk through the door, it’s not like they’re here to get a form to distribute lottery winnings, they’re here because their lives, their families, their homes are in chaos, and they come into the door very, very delicate, and we need students that are compassionate and energetic and willing to do hard things,” Haught said.

The application process for the program will start in January.