Recently, Grand Rapids car accident attorney, Tom Sinas, sat down with WKTV Journal In Focus to discuss the Legal Assistance Center in Grand Rapids. The Center is not only a unique free legal resource in West Michigan but is one of only a few organizations to offer these types of services in the entire state. As a leader in free legal assistance pertaining to civil litigation, we think it’s important for Michigan residents to understand how volunteers at the Center can help navigate their claims process.
What Does the Legal Assistance Center Do?
The first thing people should understand is what types of cases the Legal Assistance Center can help with. For this, we need a little history lesson. According to the United States Supreme Court, criminal defendants have the constitutional right to a defense attorney. This applies to criminal cases only. In Grand Rapids, the Kent County Public Defender’s office represents people who have been charged criminally.
On the flipside are civil disputes. These are legal matters where a person’s liberty isn’t at stake, unlike criminal cases. These are usually claims for money damages or some other type of relief other than putting someone in jail or prison. Common civil disputes include landlord-tenant issues, family matters such as divorce and custody, and creditor-debtor claims, to name a few. People who find themselves in these types of situations don’t have the constitutional right to an attorney. They’re on their own.
So where do they go? While some people can afford an attorney to represent them, that is, unfortunately, a small portion of the population. For people who can’t afford an attorney, their legal troubles don’t just go away, so they oftentimes have to self-represent. This is where the Legal Assistance Center steps in, offering services to Michigan residents who find themselves in the midst of a civil legal dispute.
What Makes the Legal Assistance Center Unique?
The Legal Assistance Center in Grand Rapids is really something special. The services offered at The Center fall under the umbrella of legal self-help. Not many other places in West Michigan, or the entire state for that matter, offer these types of services. The Center is really a leader in the community.
What Should People Expect When Coming to The Center?
A phenomenal group of trained volunteers is ready to will help guide people through the process they are facing. While we don’t offer legal advice or representation, there are many aspects of a person’s dispute we can help with, such as knowing which forms are needed, where to check-in at the courthouse, which floor at court handles what type of case. We can direct you to the correct clerk’s desk, assist with filling out standardized, court-issued paperwork, and answer questions.
The legal process isn’t easy. And for many people, the civil dispute they find themselves in is likely the most important thing they’ve ever handled. It can all feel overwhelming. The Legal Assistance Center helps ease some of this by providing free information to everyone who seeks our services.
Why Sinas Dramis Law Firm Got Involved With the Legal Assistance Center
I (Tom) spent many years practicing in Minnesota as a criminal prosecutor. My opponents were often appointed defense attorneys who I respected immensely for providing such a noble service. They offered a service the defendant otherwise likely wouldn’t have access to. When I moved back to Michigan in 2013 and Sinas Dramis Law Firm opened its Grand Rapids location, I immediately connected with the director of the Legal Assistance Center. I wanted to donate my time and be part of such a worthwhile organization. Pointing people in the right direction, helping them navigate an otherwise overwhelming time, and supporting them in their legal process have always been community service opportunities Sinas Dramis proudly stands behind.
Legal Assistance Center Specifics
Tuesday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., no appointment needed
Kent County Courthouse
180 Ottawa Avenue NW
Grand Rapids, Michigan
For more information, visit www.legalassistancecenter.org.
To speak with the Grand Rapids personal injury attorneys at Sinas Dramis Law Firm, call us at (616) 301-3333.