When facing legal issues involving the civil justice system, Oklahomans may not know where to turn for advice. The Oklahoma Access to Justice Commission is working to change that, and one of their pilot programs is taking place at the Ardmore Public Library.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court established the Oklahoma Access to Justice Commission in 2014. Their mission is to create and implement polices and programs that help Oklahomans navigate civil legal issues. One of those ideas is Lawyer in the Library.
Michael Figgins, chairman of the Oklahoma Access to Justice Commission, explained why they decided to hold the event at a library.
“People are comfortable in libraries,” Figgins said. “The’ve been going to libraries for years, and rather than have a pro bono night at the courthouse or at some intimidating law firm, we’re recruiting private attorneys here in Carter County to do Lawyer in the Library night.”
At Lawyer in the Library, the attorneys are available to answer legal questions free of charge. The
questions might be as simple as the best course of action to take after receiving a letter in the mail, about small claims, or landlord/tenant issues. However the lawyers present will also be able to identify when a person needs to seek legal representation.
So far, they have had two events and Figgins said they have been quite successful. Local attorneys Melanie Blackburn, Bob Highsmith, Dave Mordy, Alexa Stumpff, DeAnn Taylor and Nick Tucker have volunteered their time.The lawyers from the Ardmore location of Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma have also volunteered. Figgins said the program helps everyone involved.
“I like situations where it’s a win/win all the way around,” Figgins said. The attorneys are able to help the public, the citizens have a place to go for direction, and, as Figgins pointed out, the library also gets increased traffic.
“Sometimes people go to the library who haven’t been in years, and they see all the things the library offers,” Figgins said. In fact, the leadership from the Oklahoma Library Association has met with the Oklahoma Access to Justice Commission and they are looking to expanding the program to other libraries across the state.
On Tuesday, Dec. 4, Lawyer in the Library will return to the Ardmore Public Library from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Smith Room. Anyone that has a legal question is welcome to attend and Figgins said any attorneys in Carter County who would like to volunteer to help with the program can email him at michael.figgins@laok.org.