Category Archives: News

Going to School to Stay Out of Jail

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Contrary to stereotypes of hard-nosed prosecutors and stern judges, not every District Attorney or criminal court judge is out to lock up every lawbreaker for the maximum term. In every state, there are programs designed to keep offenders out of jail and to steer them away from future offenses. We’re all familiar with probation, which substitutes supervision for jail time.

In recent years, other types of alternative approaches have been implemented. We’ve documented several of them: Mental Health Courts, Drug Courts, Juvenile Diversion, Veterans Courts, Adult Diversion, Family Dependency Treatment Court, and Traffic SchoolRead More

Washington State Supreme Court adopts rule allowing non-lawyers to provide limited legal services

Based upon an administrative order approved by the Washington State Supreme Court on June 15, 2012, non-lawyers may offer limited assistance on simple legal matters.  The Court adopted the proposed Admission to Practice (APR) Rule 28, the “Limited Practice Rule for Limited License Legal Technicians” to expand access to legal services for low and moderate income individuals in Washington state.  As the order states:

“Every day across this state, thousands of unrepresented (pro se) individuals seek to resolve important legal matters in our courts.  Many of these are low income people who seek but cannot obtain Read More

Property Tax Assessment Appeals Get Easier in New York

Have you ever thought your property taxes might be too high because the tax assessor over-valued your house? Have you been thinking more about that as housing sales and prices have plummeted during the past few years? If so, you might have taken the time to complain to the assessor. My own assessment notice says, “If you believe the new value is incorrect (too high or too low) compared to your estimate of market value, please contact us to review your property characteristics.” I will leave the issue of appealing a value that is “too low” to some humorist to … Read More

Services for Crime Victims

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With the Trayvon Martin case, including the recent second degree murder charges against George Zimmerman making national news, violent crime is at the forefront of the nation’s consciousness. The Martin/Zimmerman case has raised questions about who the true victim really was. Although we may not know the answer to that question until the case has been resolved, unfortunately there are thousands of crimes committed every day, leaving victims to deal with the  aftermath. Often there is so much focus on the perpetrators of crime that the victim gets somewhat left behind by court systems. However, more and more courts are … Read More

Seattle Adds Youth Traffic Court

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Recognizing that the most influential people in a teenager’s life are often peers, Seattle is adding its first Youth Traffic Court, set to convene for the first time this month. The court will be staffed entirely by Garfield High School students, who will serve as judge, jury, attorneys, bailiffs and court clerks. The students have all received training in these positions from Seattle University law students.

Any Seattle driver younger than 18 who admits to the traffic violation he or she is accused of may appear in Seattle Youth Traffic Court. Following the philosophy of restorative justice, the teen … Read More

Mediation: an Alternative to Foreclosure

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Judicial foreclosure exists in nearly every state in the United States. Generally, a lender initiates a foreclosure action when the property owner/borrower has failed to make mortgage payments. In a judicial foreclosure, the lender must go through the court system, filing a complaint and serving the borrower. In most states, the court will then either find for the borrower or for the lender. If the court finds that the borrower has indeed defaulted on his or her loan a judgement will be entered for the lender. The lender can then hold a sheriff’s sale of the property in order to … Read More

Red Light Camera Tickets Online

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Online payments for traffic and other minor offenses are being adopted by more and more courts and government entities. We’ve previously reviewed online payment systems for traffic citations and other court fines in general and in North Carolina, and for parking tickets.

Red light camera tickets may also be paid online in some jurisdictions. Where red light cameras are used, the evidence that a driver ran a red light is a photograph or video. No police testimony is required, so most online red light camera ticket payment systems allow the driver to view the evidence before paying the … Read More

Phoning In Your Court Appearance

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Telephonic appearances by attorneys have been common in certain types of court hearings for years. They have gone mostly unnoticed by the general public, because they have only been used for hearings on motions and other matters that don’t require the presentation of evidence or sworn testimony. These hearing are routine court procedures, not the dramatic trials you see on television.

Allowing some of these routine hearings to be done over the phone saves time for both court staff and attorneys, and thus saves money for clients. Attorneys for both sides may phone in their appearances, or one attorney may … Read More

Veterans Courts

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Courts designed to help non-violent offenders who have substance abuse or mental health problems have been around for several years. See our blog posts about Mental Illness Case Information from April 2008 and Drug Courts from October 2008. The idea behind these courts is that incarceration is not likely to fix substance abuse or mental illness, but that people with these problems can be successfully treated and kept out of the criminal justice system. Treatment is significantly cheaper than incarceration and has a better chance of reducing recidivism.

Aside from their special focus, these courts don’t use the same adversarial … Read More

Electronic Filing for the Masses

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It’s getting easier to conduct court business online. Court systems haven’t been as quick to set up online transactions as, say, banks or booksellers. Yet it’s not new; see our 2009 blog posts What is E-Filing and Paying Court Fines Online. And it’s getting better.

Take electronic filing of court documents: More and more court systems are adding this capability. New Jersey even has mandatory electronic filing for some types of cases. But court-run electronic filing is not expanding fast enough to satisfy the demand from law firms looking efficiency. In response, a number of private companies now offer … Read More