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Small Claims Court Project

Name of Non-Profit Agency:: 
Connecticut Bar Association and Judicial Branch
Contact:: 
Carol DeJohn
Pro Bono Coordinator
cdejohn@ctbar.org
860-612-2036

This project provides advice and counseling to litigants in small claims court.  It has been designed to be especially suitable for retired lawyers through  very flexible scheduling and formation of very short-term attorney-client relationships. 

Why is this assistance important to these clients?: 
Clients have low income, and the amounts at stake in small claims litigation are very significant for them.
Who are the clients?: 
Unrepresented plaintiffs and defendants in small claims court.
What legal strategies do the pro bono lawyers use to assist the clients?: 
The attorney-client relationship is limited to the time that the volunteer meets with the client during the counseling session. No on-going attorney-client relationship is established, and the volunteer has no obligation to the client after the counseling session.
What are the outcome goals of this assistance?: 
To have unrepresented parties understand the procedures in small claims court, and to use those procedures effectively to prosecute or defend a claim. Clients should also understand the process of collecting on a judgment, and the exemptions from execution on judgments.
What time commitment is required to do this pro bono work?: 
2 hours, once a month, on a very flexible basis.
Where is the pro bono work done? (For example, at a legal aid office or at the pro bono attorneys office.): 

At the small claims court.

Give a short (1-paragraph) case example:: 
Despite repeated contact with the landlord, a former tenant has not received a refund of her security deposit at the end of her lease. The Landlord has not provided any statement of damages claimed to have been made by the tenant. The client seeks to file a claim for the security deposit plus statutory damages equal to the amount of the security deposit. The client wants to understand how she can file a claim, what evidence she needs to prevail, and how she can collect any judgment in her favor.
If it is important that a pro bono lawyer already has particular legal background or training, please describe.: 
Training is provided, but most matters involve basic legal counseling skills.
What training is provided to pro bono lawyers doing this work?: 
Training is available for volunteers on small claims court procedures and on the legal issues most likely to be encountered in counseling small claims court litigants.
Who provides the training?: 
The Connecticut Bar Association.
Where is the training held? How long does the training last?: 
4 hours.
Who are the adverse parties (if any) for this type of work (for example, landlords, spouses, banks, government entities)?: 
Clients have a wide range of adverse parties. Volunteers do not encounter adverse parties.
At what time of day is the pro bono work done (example: evening clinic)?: 
Usually during court business hours.
Does this pro bono work require full admission to practice in Connecticut?: 
No, this project is available to counsel admitted under in-house practice rules, and after January 1, 2014, to lawyers who have filed as “retired” with the Superior court.
Can the training be attended remotely (webinar or teleconference)?: 
Not currently.
When is the next training (after October 1) and how often is training offered?: 

First half of December, 2013

Category: 
This organization is a member of the Connecticut Pro Bono Network.