How do you put a face on what it means to have an equal opportunity for access to civil justice?
That’s difficult — but the Feb. 15 edition of The Florida Bar News attempts to do just that in their article…
“Putting a human face on the civil legal access gap:
Access Commission learns how the system is broken”
Look no further than the story of Miami’s Maria Garcia, said Commission member and Third DCA Clerk of Court Mary Cay Blanks during a recent January Commission meeting. Garcia was fired from her job of 15 years, denied benefits and didn’t know where to turn. When she visited Blanks’ office to file an appeal, the attendant simply handed her forms and wasn’t permitted — by law — to give her any legal advice. Unable to afford a lawyer, Ms. Garcia left feeling frustrated and unsure of what step to take next, as if the system had failed her. That has to change, said Blanks.
“The challenge we face in my office is being able to assist them in a meaningful way without crossing that line of giving out too much information and worrying about the unauthorized practice of law,” Blanks told the Commission. “So we err on the side of giving less information because we don’t want to cross that line. The perception is that we’re unhelpful; it causes a lot of people leaving the office disgruntled, and feeling like they are not getting their day in court, or we’re not going to help them get their day in court.”