I am not a lawyer but after years of single parenthood I admit that I mastered acting as a self represented litigant. I dealt with debts that my Ex was to pay but ignored, changing (modifying) court orders, even docketing judgments and garnishing wages.  While none of it was hard, it all required the correct forms and answers to procedural questions.  

The county I lived in posted the forms and instructions about procedures on their website. If you weren’t computer savvy, you could call and someone would mail the proper forms to you. This easy access to the needed forms and instructions was paramount to my success. In one such instance I won a $4,000. judgment but didn’t know how to collect. The legal resource center’s documentation explained that a judgment had to:

1) Be docketed.

2) What forms I’d need and where to send them to get the judgment docketed.

3) And finally, what to do after the judgment was docketed in order to proceed with collection activity or a wage garnishment.

After moving to Little Falls I was disappointed that a similar resource center didn’t exist and it seems legal aid resources for the area are also almost nonexistent. Since I’ve had so many experiences as a consumer with my landlord and the bugs at the Goodnight Inn, I’m glad to know how to defend my rights. But I can’t help but wonder if some of the shoddy business practices I’ve seen don’t continue on because of the glaring lack of information and resources. If the local community had easier access to the legal means of holding them accountable it would seem shoddy business would be forced to address their issues.

After my rental experience with the absentee landlord, and after hearing from other local renters who dealt with similar issues, I think a self help center should also include resources for renters on addressing issues with landlords. Let’s face it, the woman who rented the house I’m in before me was living with a major gas leak…one that we lived with for 3 months! Negligent landlords pose issues of safety when it comes to unlicensed workers, gas leaks and unaddressed issues with old and  faulty wiring.Individuals who can’t afford an attorney should be able to defend their rights by appearing in court pro se (self represented). While there are still filing fees, low income individuals can file informa pauperis which is a request that the courts waive their standard filing fees based on income.

I think Morrison County should create a legal self-help center so individuals who are having child support issues, who need to modify a court order, who want to collect on an existing judgment or who can’t get their landlord to make needed repairs, have recourse. There is a whole gamut of issues that can easily be handled without an attorney, provided they are given proper instruction.

Making fish lips,

Olive Rockfish

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