Why Court Clerks cannot assist with legal advice, explained by Janet Reed, Esq
By preventing clerks from dispensing legal advice to parties, courts protect the impartial administration of justice and lessen the burden on the court system. In her new article, Janet Reed explains the reasons and the resulting problems.
By: The Law Office of Attorney Janet Pittman Reed
In her new article, North Carolina lawyer Janet Reed provides a brief overview of the issues facing pro se litigants and court clerks.
You might have seen in movies where a person being sued runs to the courthouse, is sent from one desk to another, and finally one merciful court clerk with large, horn-rimmed librarian glasses, reveals the legal strategy that ends the legal quagmire. But that happens only in the movies. In real life, court clerks are not allowed to dispense legal advice. That can make life more difficult for any pro se litigant, and burdens the legal system as a whole.
That courts and clerks cannot provide legal advice in North Carolina
is prominently stated in documents and on websites. The website of the North Carolina Judiciary, https://www.nccourts.gov/
"Information Not Legal Advice: The materials available on this website are for general information purposes only. This information is not legal advice and cannot replace legal advice. You can obtain legal advice only from a licensed attorney."
Similarly, the website of the United States District Court, Middle District of North Carolina, https://www.ncmd.uscourts.gov/
The situation is essentially the same in other states. A 2009 Report by the Alabama Access to Justice Commission (Christina Llop, Esq.) notes that "Judges and clerks find consistent problems with self- represented parties expecting them to provide legal advice, failing to understand rules of procedure and evidence, failing to bring necessary witnesses and evidence to court, and refusing to accept the court's rulings. In fact, Judge Jack Lowther expressed the same frustration heard from judicial officers around the nation: having to rule against a self-represented litigant not because they did not have a strong and possibly winning case, but because they did not know how to prove their case or their damages. The result, apart from the significant potential for failure to find redress for legitimate legal claims, is wasted judicial and staffing resources." (Report, page 10).
Janet Pittman Reed is an attorney in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and handles Family Law cases such as Divorce & Separation, Personal Injury, Traffic, Criminal Law, Driver's License Restoration Services, and Civil Litigation cases.
The Law Office of Attorney Janet Pittman Reed