Service available for civil litigants without counsel


Staff Writer

A program directed to people who are underserved, to the vulnerable and those who lack the expertise or skills to represent themselves in noncriminal court proceedings, has been opened in Durango and will serve people living in the 6th Judicial District (including Archuleta County).

Michelle Sylvain is the self-represented litigant coordinator for the 6th Judicial District. She is a court employee, and by law can only provide legal information, not legal advice.

The program is not a substitute for an attorney, but a way to aid people if they lack an attorney for a civil proceeding. The program helps people retrieve information that is difficult to access when they are not represented by counsel.

At times, a litigant is unable to afford representation; sometimes, they don’t know they can afford it. There are times they don’t know how complicated their situation might be.

At this point, the information available from Sylvain could be important. Coordinators like Sylvain can help people decide whether they should represent themselves or hire an attorney.

“Those are the people that we help. We help people who are pursuing cases in court with their forms and processes, to help them understand what the process is like and to help them access the resources that help them in court,” Sylvain explained. “We help them get the facts for their case.”

The center is open to anyone who wants to negotiate with the court system.

At present, there is not a physical office in Pagosa Springs, however, the center is available by phone and e-mail. Ultimately, there will be some sort of interface at the Archuleta County Courthouse, but a timeline has not been developed.

“It’s a free service,” Sylvain explained. “People have to be willing to spend the time and sit down with us, but we are willing to talk to them and work with those who need additional help.”

The Durango office is one of eleven centers in the state; another is based in Cortez.

The center is located in Durango at the La Plata County Courthouse, 1060 East Second Ave. Office hours are 1-4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Services are for everyone and concern is for those who lack any alternatives for representation in the noncriminal court system. Walk-ins are welcome, however, appointments can be made by e-mailing or by calling 385-6179.