Small Claims Assistance Program Volunteers Talk

This month, The Third Branch takes a look at the experiences of Dane County Small Claims Assistance Program (SCAP) volunteers.

““This is a walk-in program where unrepresented small claims litigants can get legal information -– but not legal advice, representation, or advocacy -– from volunteer lawyers and paralegals,”” explained Atty. Jennifer L. Binkley, co-chair of the Dane County Bar Association Delivery of Legal Services Committee. ““Its purpose is to assist pro se litigants and to make the entire small claims system run more efficiently.”

Now in its second year, SCAP has assisted more than 300 people since it began operations in summer 2004. Every Tuesday from 9 to 11 a.m., litigants meet one-on-one with a volunteer from a revolving staff of approximately 40 local attorneys and paralegals.

The amount of effort litigants put into documenting evidence and filing forms (often in duplicate or triplicate) is apparent, and a bit overwhelming, even to the experts. ““I look at this form, and…”” [Assistant Attorney General Barbara L.] Oswald trails off, gesturing in utter confusion at the sample form spread before her. ““I have a law degree! I mean, there are eight different forms for garnishments.”