The Texas Access to Justice Commission’s Special Projects Committee, which coordinated the Forum, met after the Forum to evaluate the effort and determine next steps. Based on the Committee’s recommendation, the Commission decided at its May 4 meeting:
- The Commission will request that the Supreme Court create a statewide Task Force to develop Supreme Court approved pleading and order forms for statewide use. An initial objective will be to determine what other efforts in this regard are currently underway and what is happening on a local level throughout the state, and then to bring all of these efforts under one umbrella.
- The Commission will establish a committee that is dedicated solely to assisted pro se issues. The committee’s charge will include:
- Considering legislative proposals that may direct financial resources for assisted self-help programs
- Engaging in the education of clerks, law librarians, the judiciary, and the private bar, and advising stakeholders of financial and other resources available to assist with their efforts
- Identifying best practices and communicating those to all interested parties
- Coordinating/Serving as statewide clearinghouse for available resources
- Continuing to monitor and assist the development of programs on a local level.
And most important (I buried the lead again), today the Office of Court Administration, Texas Access to Justice Commission, Texas Access to Justice Foundation, and Texas Legal Services Center published a manual for clerks and court personnel who work with self-represented litigants: "Legal Information vs. Legal Advice: Guidelines and Instructions for Clerks and Court Personnel Who Work with Self-Represented Litigants in Texas State Courts." It is available on our Publications, Forms and Online Information page (which has a ton of material, look under Manuals and Handbooks towards the bottom). The manual is intended to help clerks and court personnel understand the difference between legal information and legal advice. It explains why clerks and court personnel must not give advice but should give legal information. It also contains examples of permissible and impermissible ways to answer questions from the public and a list of resources and referral information.