A committee within the Texas Access to Justice Commission may soon turn its attention to researching ideas for changes to the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure (TRCP) to require courts to accept pro se filings made with standardized forms and to create a uniform definition of indigency.
The ideas came partially from discussions at the April 13 and 14 meeting of the Texas Supreme Court Advisory Committee (SCAC) about controversial pro se divorce forms, says TAJC Executive Director Trish McAllister.
McAllister (pictured) says she asked a subcommittee of the TAJC’s Self-Represented Litigants Committee to research a change to TRCP Rule 7, which says litigants have the right to represent themselves in civil suits. The change would indicate judges can’t reject a legally sufficient court filing simply because a litigant used a form.
“One of the difficulties we’ve seen for people who attempt to represent themselves … are judges that won’t accept fill-in-the-blank forms or any form of any kind,” she explains.
McAllister says several SCAC members suggested the revision, and she also read it in a report to the SCAC by the State Bar of Texas Family Law Section and the Texas Family Law Foundation
Steve Bresnen, a lobbyist for both groups, says the groups’ position is courts shouldn’t reject form filings if they’re legally sufficient and they achieve justice in an individual’s case. But the groups oppose standardized forms because “people are not standardized,” he says
The TAJC subcommittee also will continue its research into revising TRCP Rule 145, which allows poor people to ask a court to waive court costs, McAllister says. The revision would clarify the guidelines for a court to find a person is indigent because, currently, there are many conflicting guidelines, and courts make different decisions on who is considered poor.
-- Angela Morris