In response to calls for additional legal assistance, Fairfax County is poised to establish a self-help resource center in the library of its courthouse complex.
At a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday (March 21), the board approved a board matter that would allocate $96,000 in fiscal year 2024 to support the project. The board matter was proposed by Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk and Chairman Jeff McKay.
Reportedly the first of its kind in the state, the center would provide legal information, referrals, forms and resource materials on topics related to court issues. The board matter states that it would serve as an alternative option for people who can’t afford legal services and don’t have pro bono help available.
“In my District, we have had constituents contact my office desperate for legal differential last hey are unable to obtain legal aid services. In one instance, a child custody case, the parents had no idea what to expect at their court hearing and thus were not able to prepare for or understand the court process,” Lusk said in the board matter.
First pitched by the Fairfax Bar Association, which runs the law library, the proposal is being led by Fairfax County General District Court judges Susan Stoney and Dipti Pidkiti-Smith.
A 2019 study by the bar association found that the cost of hiring an attorney and the belief that cases can be handled alone are among the top reasons litigants didn’t have a lawyer.
“Access to justice for self-representative litigants is a significant issue facing the legal community today,” the board matter said.
Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity noted that the challenge is not limited to “Black and brown communities.”
Responding to Herrity, McKay emphasized that the board matter specifically refers to economically challenged residents and other communities who are most in need.
He said that statement was “absolutely factual” and “all encompassing.”
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