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Legal Help for Seniors

January 29th, 2016 · No Comments

Many businesses and government agencies give special treatment to people over a certain age. That age limit is usually around 60, 65, or somewhere in between. If you’re a “senior”, an “elder”, or otherwise in that category, you can usually get discounts from private enterprise on things like meals, hotels, and movie tickets. From the government, you can get a lifetime pass to National Parks for only $10.

When it comes to the justice system, seniors don’t get any breaks. If you’re accused of a crime, or sued for damages, the law only cares about your age if you’re a minor. However, in keeping with the cultural propensity to give seniors a break, many public and private agencies have programs to help seniors navigate the justice system.

Lawyers themselves may specialize in cases affecting seniors; after all, many legal issues are especially relevant to seniors. Examples include wills and estates, elder abuse, age discrimination, health care, health insurance, and end-of-life issues. There is even a National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys that helps seniors find an attorney who specializes in one or more of these areas; it also provides information about various legal topics of interest to seniors.

For seniors who can’t afford a lawyer, public and private resources are available to help. Most legal aid agencies – these are private nonprofit organizations; see our blog posts here and here – provide legal assistance and information for seniors as part of their overall programs. Legal aid agencies may be found in every state and most counties. Just a few examples of those which specifically include senior issues are California’s Orange County Legal Aid SocietyOhio Legal Services,  and Berrien County Legal Services, serving Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren Counties in Michigan.

Some areas even have a legal aid agency that specializes in senior issues. Some are regional, such as Maine’s Legal Services for the Elderly, Ohio’s Pro Seniors, Pennsylvania’s Senior Law Center, and West Virginia’s Senior Legal Aid.

Other specialized senior agencies are county-wide or regional, such as the Jewish Association Serving the Aging’s Legal Services for the Elderly in Queens, New York. California has its San Luis Obispo County Bar Association Senior Legal ServicesSanta Clara County Senior Adults Legal Assistance, Stanislaus County Senior Adovcacy Network, and Elder Law & Advocacy in San Diego and Imperial Counties. New Jersey has its Camden County Bar Association Legal Advice for Seniors program. In Texas, the Tarrant County Bar Association offers an Elder Law Handbook.

In the public sector, most state Attorney General offices and many local prosecutors’ offices provide information about senior issues, although they do not provide legal representation or advice. Some examples include the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, New Jersey’s Burlington County Senior Citizens Legal Services Program, Pennsylvania’s Delaware County District Attorney’s Office Senior Victim Services, the South Dakota Attorney General’s Office, and the Washington Attorney General’s Office.

You can find the most up-to-date links to these and many other sources of legal help for seniors at CourtReference, in our “Self Help and Legal Research” or “Legal Aid and Lawyer Referral” categories.

→ No CommentsTags: California · · Free Legal Help · Maine · Maryland · Michigan · New Jersey · New York · Ohio · Pennsylvania · South Dakota · Texas · Washington · West Virginia

More Court Tech: Skype Hearings

October 30th, 2015 · No Comments

At CourtReference, we’re always alert for advances in court technology. We don’t just mean finding court records; CourtReference has provided links to online court record resources, other court-related resources, and court websites for many years. We’re talking about interaction with the court by actual parties to the case.

Gone are the days when every interaction with the court took place in person. Payment of court fines online was one of the first methods of conducting court business electronically, and now it’s the most common; we covered it here, here, and here.

Once it became so easy to admit your guilt and pay your fine online, it was only a matter of time before some courts allowed you to fight your fine online; we covered an example of that here. Further expansion of online and e-mail options in Washington (arguably the high-tech capital of the world) included not only parking ticket cases, but also traffic tickets, other minor infractions, deferral and mitigation requests, anti-harassment orders, and even small claims case filing.

Filing of court papers by attorneys has been possible for years, but some courts now allow – some even require – electronic filing by parties without an attorney. We examined e-filing of court papers here and here.

Parties’ court appearances by telephone have been allowed by some courts in some cases for several years. But telephones are so “2000″ – now some courts allow video appearances. What could be next, after telephonic and video appearances? Hmmm … could it be SKYPE? Of course it could, at least if your appearance is in Missoula Municipal Court (click the “Preparing for Court” link on that website) in Montana, and your offense doesn’t potentially involve jail time. Skype appearances are also permitted in some juvenile dependency hearings in California’s Santa Clara Superior Court. That same court is about to also start permitting Skype hearings in some family law mediation proceedings.

What’s next? Court hearings by telepathy? Don’t laugh – technology happens fast. Keep checking CourtReference, and this blog, for new developments.

→ No CommentsTags: California · Court Systems · · Montana · Technology · Washington

A New Specialty Court: Sex!

September 28th, 2015 · No Comments

Special court programs to deal with specific types of cases exist in every state. “Accountability Courts” or “Problem-Solving Courts” or “Therapeutic Courts” are special court programs that use treatment and social services in lieu of incarceration. We’ve covered specific types over the years: Drug Courts here and here, Mental Health Courts, Family Dependency Treatment Courts, and Veterans Courts.

These programs include intensive supervision by a team that includes the judge, and have proven to reduce recidivism and save their jurisdictions money, because treatment is less expensive than jail. Offenders with substance abuse and/or mental health problems get the help they need, and in many cases have their charges dismissed when they complete the program.

Substance abuse and mental health problems are obvious candidates for treatment in lieu of incarceration. What other type of human weakness might lend itself to treatment? Well, we covered Gun Courts, which do include education and supervisions, but but usually include incarceration. Could we have exhausted the possibilities for accountability/problem-solving/therapeutic courts?

Not quite, if you are in Salt Lake City. Salt Lake County Criminal Justice Services, the Salt Lake City Prosecutor’s Office, Third Judicial District Court, Salt Lake City Justice Court, the Utah Legal Defender Association, and other local agencies collaborate to offer the usual array of “therapeutic” programs. These include Drug Court, Mental Health Court, the “Passages” program combining treatment and restitution, and various mental health and substance abuse treatment programs.

But Salt Lake City has two unique programs for another human weakness that can sometimes benefit from treatment: sex! Not the whole gamut of sex; just two types of behavior that can affect the general public, not just one’s sex partner.

John’s Offender Program includes a series of group educational sessions – and even a “prostitute panel” – for defendants charged with soliciting sex for money. Healthy Self-Expressions includes an assessment and both group and individual clinical sessions for defendants charged with sexual activity in a public place. Participants who successfully complete either program – and it’s not inconceivable that the same defendant could end up in both – have their charges dismissed.

Have we now seen every possible type of accountability/problem-solving/therapeutic courts? Perhaps, but given the cost of incarceration and the value of changing behavior instead of just punishing it, the criminal justice system may well find more ways to save. Keep an eye on CourtReference to keep up with new developments in your state.

→ No CommentsTags: · New Sites · Uncategorized