Muskegon County Courthouse to Host New Legal Self-Help Center

Andrew Trzaska | June 25, 2013

Muskegon residents who opt to represent themselves in legal proceedings have a new resource in Muskegon County.

The Michigan Self-Help Center for Muskegon County will open on July 1, 2013 in the law library on the 6th floor of the Muskegon County Hall of Justice on Terrace Avenue.

Two computers in the law library will be available to look up law information and will be monitored by a law clerk. Those computers will link to the center’s website, MichiganLegalHelp.org, which will help users fill out legal forms pertinent to their county and the State of Michigan.

The website is accessible anywhere and has information for all counties in the state, but the Muskegon Self-Help Center itself will be open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am until 4:30 pm.  Page printing will be available at the center for 25 cents per page.

Court forms available on the new site focus on needs within the State of Michigan. They go through an interview process and it helps fill out legal forms, or will tell users to contact a lawyer if the case gets too complicated.

Sandra Vanderhyde, Deputy Circuit Court Administrator for Muskegon County, spoke at Tuesday’s county commission meeting on the topic.

Vanderhyde said that the Michigan Self-Help Center for Muskegon County can replace online websites where you pay to get legal services.

In the past few years since the start of the nation’s economic downturn, more people have been using those sites but with mixed success, according to Vanderhyde.

Commissioner Terry Sabo explained Tuesday that those types of sites have missed the mark for his consitutents. For instance, other may help you fill out forms that end up not being valid in the state or county.

Commissioner Bob Scolnik stated at Monday’s meeting that he was unsure about those types of resources, like LegalZoom.

“I was always wary of those things,” said Bob. “But this is wonderful.”

The self-help website is run by Michigan Legal Help, which is funded by the Michigan State Bar Foundation, Legal Services Corporation and Legal Services of South Central Michigan.

Vanderhyde noted that the Muskegon Self-Help Center currently functions at no real operating cost, but she did not rule out possible future costs to the county if the Center is well used. She also suggested unpaid interns as a way to staff the Center if needed.

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst