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For immediate release: September 19, 2007
For further information contact: Winnie Comfort
Tamara Kendig 609-292-9580

Courts Announce New Program to Serve Self-Represented Litigants

The New Jersey Judiciary has launched a program to help self-represented litigants navigate the courts, today announced Judge Philip S. Carchman, acting administrative director of the courts. The Litigant Services Program will coordinate assistance to self-represented litigants to ensure that those who wish to represent themselves in court are able to find the information and resources they need to proceed with their cases.

"While we always recommend first that court users try to get an attorney if they can, the noticeable increase in self-represented litigants throughout the country in recent years has convinced us that many people either cannot or choose not to hire attorneys to represent them," said Judge Carchman. "Self-represented litigants often are unfamiliar with court rules and processes and therefore may require additional services."

Each of New Jersey's 15 vicinages (or court districts) already has a number of resources to help self-represented litigants. Each, for example, has an ombudsman who can help them locate forms, offices and outside agencies that may offer relevant services. Most vicinages also have law librarians, who can show people how to conduct legal research. In addition, the Judiciary Web site at njcourtsonline.com houses complete packets of information for litigants who want to represent themselves in certain types of court actions, such as name changes and requests for changes in child support.

As the Judiciary's first manager of litigant services, attorney Nancy Gramaglia will bring together all the current services available to people who represent themselves. She will spearhead the Judiciary's efforts to improve the services offered and to make them uniform around the state.

These efforts include expanding the availability of easy-to-read written materials describing how a person can bring a case to court.

Gramaglia, who most recently served as an ombudsman in the Burlington Vicinage, will coordinate the work of ombudsmen, librarians and others to ensure equal access to the courts for self-represented litigants. She will work closely with Judiciary leaders, bar associations and legal services organizations to identify the best ways to integrate the self-represented litigant smoothly into the rhythm of courtroom procedure and practice.

"The goal of the new program is to help self-represented litigants make their way through the judicial process as smoothly as possible. We want all litigants to feel that they have been treated fairly, that they have had their day in court and that they have been given the opportunity to present their case," said Gramaglia.

Gramaglia, who began her new position on Aug. 20, holds a bachelor's degree from Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and a juris doctor from Widener University School of Law. A Mullica Hill resident, Gramaglia has served the Judiciary for 12 years.

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