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Montana Legal Forms

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					HELPING LIBRARY USERS
WITH LEGAL PROBLEMS
           PART TWO
  Understanding the Legal System
              and
       Why You Can Help
• To help you understand where the law
  comes from and where legal answers
  can be found.
• And to help you be more comfortable
  with providing assistance by giving you
  some clear guidelines.
 Sources of Law
& Their Resources
                    CIVICS 101
                     Organic Law

• Passed by the Voters

• Constitutions; Charters

• Voter Initiatives Amend the Constitution by Ballot
  Measure

• Cannot by changed by Legislature; applied and
  construed by the Courts
• The Montana Constitution:
  – 1st Vol. of the MCA
  – On many websites
  – Individual pamphlets
• Constitutional Initiatives:
  – Save the Voter Information Pamphlets
  – Text will be in Laws of Montana for the
    following leg. session.
              CIVICS 101


State                       Federal

              Legislative

Legislature                 Congress
               Legislative
• Bills & Resolutions
  – Legislative Website www.leg.mt.gov


• Laws, Statutes, Session Laws

• Codes: Montana Code Annotated
  – Unannotated
  – Annotated
            CIVICS 101
State                           Federal
                 Executive

Governor                President

Attorney General

Administrative          Administrative
 Agencies                Agencies
                Executive
• Proclamations
  – Sometimes on Governor’s website


• Rules and Regulations
  – Montana Register
  – Administrative Rules of Montana


• Opinions of the Attorney General
  – Websites
                          CIVICS 101
    State                                 Federal

                               Judicial

Montana Supreme Court                     U.S. Supreme Court
  District Courts                          Courts of Appeal
  Courts of Limited Jurisdiction           District Courts
  Specialized Courts                       Specialized Courts
 Judicial: www.courts.mt.gov
• Opinions

• Rules

• Forms
 Deciphering a Legal Citation --
            CASES
• Snetsinger v. Montana Univ. Syst.,
  325 Mont. 148, 104 P.3d 445,
  2004 MT 390 (2004).
• Brown v. Board of Education,
  347 U.S. 483, 74 S. Ct. 686,
  98 L. Ed. 873 (1954)

  Volume * Title of Set * Page number
   (Year)
Identify the Type of Question


– Known Item Search: Have a citation


– Looking for “the law” on _______ topic
 Looking for “The Law” on ….
• Remember that there rarely is a simple
  answer.

• Many sources will have to be
  consulted.

• Sometimes it’s better to start with a
  secondary source, like law journals or
  legal encyclopedias.
          Using What You Have
          (or might want to get)
• Nutshells: Thompson West (~~ $30 per title)
   (i.e. Entertainment Law in a Nut Shell)
• Nolo Press books, www.nolo.com
• Oceana’s Legal Almanac Series: Law for the
  Layperson, www.oceanlaw.com (~~ $40 per title)

• Brochures from government agencies, nonprofit
  groups
      i.e.: Area Offices on Aging; Extension Service
• How and When to Be Your Own Lawyer by Robert
  W. Schachner
FORMS – Caution!
• Free Forms: jurisdictional problems

• Paying for Forms: Look first if State Law
  Library has them for free.
      Pro Se Litigants
Self-Represented Litigants
  – People who can’t afford an attorney

  – People who can’t find an attorney

  – People who don’t want an attorney (few of these)
  You can help the Courts help
     our common patrons
• Be expert navigators on the websites

• Use your empathy:
  – SRLs
  – Foreign terms
  – Complicated processes
     We can make this more
      comfortable for you!
• Be Our Partners in
  Providing Access to Justice
WE CANNOT GIVE
 LEGAL ADVICE
• This is what librarians hear –

• But what does this really mean?

• Do any of you really understand?
Problems Develop When There is
    Such a Vague Standard

 – Less apt to help laypersons, tendency to
   favor professionals
 – Less time for difficult people; more
   attention paid to nice ones
 – Depending on the workload
 – Depending on how much sleep you had
   last night!
     Principle upon Which to
        Build a Sound Policy

• You may provide information to court
  users about how the process works

• Connecting people to information is
  not legal advice
         Legal Information

• Facts about the law and the legal
  process

• Who, what, where, when, how

• How to bring an issue to the attention
  of the court
             Legal Advice
• Advice about the course of action someone
  should take to further his or her own best
  interests

• Opinions, conjecture, predictions

• Suggestions as to the best way to proceed,
  or judges’ inclinations

• Recommending specific options
If you don’t know, don’t
         guess.
       Ways to provide this
           assistance
• Know where to locate forms which
  help litigants submit appropriate
  information to the court
• BUT, be very careful of the source of
  the forms! Only go to reputable
  websites, generally:
• www.montanalawhelp.org or
• www.courts.mt.gov/library
 Don’t assume that television
  courtroom presentations
represent the reality of a trial.
Or that there actually
   would be a trial
   Librarians can provide forms
     and copies of instructions

• We may record on the forms
  information provided by the litigants if
  the litigants are not capable of filling
  out the form themselves
• We are not allowed to provide or
  suggest the information that should be
  entered on the forms
       Ethical Principles to
           Remember
• Treat people impartially
• Perform with competence; know when
  to do a referral or when to show a
  website; readily admit that you don’t
  know an answer.
• Maintain confidentiality
  – May be hard in a small community
  – Is there a private area to conduct
    reference interviews?
• Judy Meadows: jmeadows@mt.gov

 – State Law Librarian of Montana

 – Chair, Montana Supreme Court
   Commission on Self-Represented Litigants

				
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