Free legal clinics expanding

A free legal clinic for people representing themselves in court that was piloted in Mancos will expand to six counties in January because of its success.

The clinic was started in June and allows those who choose not to hire a lawyer to meet with one via video conference at the Mancos Public library to understand the legal process, said Ric Morgan, a lawyer, co-chair of 18th Judicial District Access to Justice Committee and organizer of the clinic.

The success of the Mancos clinic and two others set up in Montrose and Baca counties prompted the expansion.

The clinics were set up by one of Colorado's access to justice committees to provide legal advice because of the growing number of people representing themselves.

During 2012, 774,000 cases were filed in Colorado, and in about 60 percent of those cases at least one of the sides was not represented by a lawyer, according to the 2014 state judicial budget request.

Morgan said more people are choosing to represent themselves because they can't afford an attorney and the burden of educating them on the process has fallen on the court system.

Many of these cases involve a family dispute, custody battle, small-claims court or rent disputes.

Morgan worked with the director of the Mancos Public Library, and Caitlin Stewart, a local self-represented litigant coordinator, to set up the local clinic.

The clinic has served 30 people, and the response was so positive that Morgan decided to expand it.

The Mancos clinic is hosted the second Thursday of every month from 2 to 5 p.m. at the library.