Resources and Guidelines

As part of its 2012 Strategic Plan, the Access to Justice Commission undertook various efforts to assist self-represented litigants in navigating the court system. The Commission carried this goal over into its 2014 Strategic Plan.  This page has resources and guidelines to help court clerks, judges, and anyone who assists self-represented litigants. 

Quick Reference Guide to Find Resources in Your Area
Click here to download a reference guide to find resources that provide help in your area.

Legal Information versus Legal Advice
The Commission created a policy clearly distinguishing between legal information and legal advice to provide guidance to court staff, clerks and attorneys assisting in self-help centers. While working on this project, the Commission determined that general guidelines are needed, not just for the groups listed above, but for any person assisting with initiatives to help self-represented litigants or who regularly are sought out by self-represented litigants for legal information.

The General Guidelines Distinguishing Between Legal Information and Legal Advice help differentiate between providing legal advice and legal information. The Commission hopes that these guidelines will provide all those who interact with self-represented litigants with the knowledge to be able to draw the line between legal information and legal advice.

If you are not a lawyer you can provide legal information, but not legal advice.

Resources for Court Clerks
The Commission drafted guidelines specifically for court clerks to use when they are assisting self-represented litigants.  The Guidelines for Tennessee Court Clerks who Assist Self-Represented Persons were approved by the Tennessee State Court Clerks Association and endorsed by the Tennessee Supreme Court.

For many self-represented litigants, navigating the actual courthouse can be intimidating.  It's important that they be able to locate the appropriate clerk's office and courtroom.  The Commission developed the Tips to Help Self-Represented Litigants Navigate the Courthouse.  The document provides guidance on how court personnel can help self-represented litigants get to the correct office of courtroom. 

The Commission created a poster that court clerks can put up in their offices with information on statewide resources.  The clerks can direct self-represented litigants to the poster.  There is space at the bottom of the poster for clerks to add information about local resources. 

Resources for Judges
The Commission developed a bench book for general sessions judges to help them deal with self-represented litigants.  The benck book is available on the Administrative Office of the Courts website here.  The benkc book includes supplemental local rules that can be given to self-represented litigants.  The Tennessee General Sessions Judges Conference adopted the bench book and local rules in 2013. 

Various Studies on Access to Justice in Tennessee
There have been multiple studies on access to justice issues and civil legal needs done over the years.  Below you can find links to studies the Commission uses to develop its projects and initiatiives.