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Residents who represent themselves in legal proceedings could soon receive assistance from the Madison County Circuit Clerk’s Office.

“The court system can be very intimidating and time-consuming, especially for those who choose to represent themselves rather than retaining a lawyer,” Circuit Clerk Tom McRae said. “Recently grant money became available to assist self-represented litigants and I began to explore areas in the Circuit Clerk’s Office where we could potentially make improvements utilizing that funding.”

The clerk’s office applied for a $20,000 grant to assist self-represented litigants who appear in traffic court.

“The vast majority of those appearing in traffic court do not have attorneys representing them, so this was an obvious area to concentrate on,” McRae said.

If awarded, the grant will be used to purchase computer software to automate the check-in process in traffic court and help to get self-represented litigants in and out of the courthouse in a timely manner.

The Illinois Supreme Court established the funding through the Access to Justice Program to encourage development of innovative programs to assist self-represented litigants.

Gina Hargrave, a senior manager in the Circuit Clerk’s office, will act as the coordinator of the program within the office and will gather data to include the number of people served and provide that data quarterly to the Illinois Supreme Court.

“If awarded any grant money we are required to provide information to the Supreme Court for the next year to identify who benefitted from the funding,” Hargrave said.

“We are hoping to introduce the first phase of the improved Traffic Court Triage program as early as late August,” McRae said. “All those who come in contact with the Circuit Clerk’s Office are our customers. We believe this program is a big step forward in improving customer service.”

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