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New Materials Help Citizens Who Want to Represent Themselves in Court

March 8, 2001
Contact: Office of Public Affairs
Phone: (609) 292-9580

As part of its commitment to improve services for all New Jersey citizens, the Judiciary today released a new set of helpful materials to assist people who want to try to represent themselves in court without an attorney. The release followed successful testing in three counties.

“Pro se litigants--that is, citizens who represent themselves--deserve informational materials that are clear, accurate and easy to understand,” said Richard J. Williams, Administrative Director of the Courts. “Our new pro se packets will benefit all litigants who, for reasons of choice or financial need, represent themselves in New Jersey courts.”

The Judiciary’s Ad Hoc Working Group on Pro Se Materials developed the new packets over the last two years with extensive input from judges, statewide court staff and the Supreme Court Committee on Minority Concerns. The Judiciary estimates that 85,000 people each year file small claims and special civil complaints without a lawyer.

There are separate packets for each of the following areas: small claims/auto; small claims/non- auto; appeal of a municipal court judgment; and the special civil part. The forms and other information included in the packets may be used in any superior court in the state.

These are the first in a series of packets to be developed in the areas of the court where people most frequently represent themselves. Others will cover various actions in family and civil courts.

Citizens Give Thumbs Up to New Materials in “Trial Run”

The packets were tested in Essex, Hudson and Mercer Counties where more than 80 percent of all users found them to be either “very helpful” or “helpful,” while three-fourths of small claims filers and two-thirds of special civil filers were able to complete the forms without assistance.

Materials provided in the packets include information on what to expect in court, forms, definitions and concise, step-by-step directions.

Lawyers Recommended for Special Civil and Municipal Appeals

Using the correct packet, citizens should be able to file a claim without an attorney in small claims court. However, the packets for filing a special civil complaint and for appealing a municipal court judgment suggest that litigants should consider legal representation in these more complicated areas of law. “The court system can be confusing,” the special civil material states. “It is a good idea to get a lawyer if you can.”

Still, if litigants are unable or unwilling to be represented by a lawyer, the new packets will help them navigate through the court system.

The new pro se packets are available at all New Jersey superior courts and at the Judiciary's Web site, http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/prose/index.htm The municipal appeals packet is available at the municipal courts.

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