The Counter Clerk and the Upset Litigant

The Counter Clerk and the Upset Litigant

Scenario: A mother who has just received a court order taking away her children comes to the Clerk’s front counter for information. The Clerk may—or may not—be able to help.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How would you describe the court clerk’s attitude? Is he helpful and friendly?
  2. What attitude do you expect your court staff dealing with the public to display?
  3. Have you explained to your court staff what your overall goals are for interactions with the public? Have any of these discussions included principles of procedural fairness, such as making sure that people feel that they have been listened to and their concerns have been taken seriously?
  4. What additional training might be helpful for court staff who deal with the public?

For Further Information:

  1. Some states have put together training programs for staff on how to deal with self-represented litigants. The Maryland Access to Justice Commission has excellent resources, including an 18-minute training video and specific advice (including a bench card and a poster) on what topics staff can—and cannot—address, available at For more information about resources for helping self-represented litigants, check out the National Center for State Courts’ Self-Representation Resource Guide, available at, or the National Center for State Courts’ web-based Center on Court Access to Justice for All, available at M
  2. For general information about procedural-fairness principles applied to the court setting, go to