Even though the Volunteer Attorney Program does not income qualify the participants, these parties do not have access to competent legal counsel. Many have lost their jobs or are under-employed and are forced to make the choice between paying their bills or hiring an attorney. The economic turndown has created a new class of indigent self-represented parties, many of whom have some means to support their families, but have little or no access to discretionary funds. The participants are able to get their legal questions answered and leave the session with a clear idea of what options are available to them and what the consequences of those options are. The self-represented party leaves the session more informed and educated.
The clients are any self-represented party who needs legal help in the area of small claims law. The criteria for participation is that the client must have a legal issue or question in the subject area and may not be represented by an attorney at the time they meet with the volunteer attorney. The program does not income qualify participants and the participant needn't have a case pending or a case pending in the Judicial District court location where the program is running. **The Small Claims program is administered in cooperation with the Connecticut Bar Association (CBA). The volunteer attorneys provide the self-represented parties with a range of options that may be appropriate to help resolve their problem. They advise them on specific legal procedures and answer specific legal questions about "Should I?" or "What would happen if?" types of questions. The attorneys utilize the other resources provided by the Judicial Branch such as the Law Libraries and the Court Service Centers to further assist parties. The Volunteer Attorney Program does not require the attorneys to file appearances on behalf of the parties they meet with and provide advice to.
Volunteer attorneys are not required to make a minimum commitment. Interested attorneys may volunteer as much or as little as is feasible.
The Judicial Branch/CBA Volunteer Attorney Program for small claims currently operates in the Hartford, Middletown and New Haven Judicial District courts. Volunteer attorneys and self-represented parties from other geographic regions are also welcome to participate in the program.