Mason County Michigan

Self-Help Legal Resources

Resources and Information to Help You Learn about the Legal System

Our legal system is adversarial, which means there are at least two opposing sides involved in a court case. All court employees, including judges, are required to remain neutral and impartial. They cannot tell you how you should proceed and cannot favor one party over another. In other words, everyone who comes to court is treated the same way.

Additionally, by law, court employees cannot provide legal advice and may not prepare any forms or documents for you; however, the clerks who greet you at the court reception windows in Mason County are committed to providing prompt and courteous service and will assist you to whatever extent the law allows. The table below shows what type of help a court clerk can and cannot give you.

Clerks may provide... but may not provide...
definitions of legal terms interpretations of legality or how the law is applied
procedural explanations and factors to consider in your decision-making procedural advice that encourages or discourages a particular course of action
numerical citations of statutes, court rules, and ordinances any legal research or interpretation of statutes, court rules, and ordinances
case information available to the public case information when no public record exists
general information about routine court operations specific information about internal court operations
general information about options available to you specific advice or opinions about which option you should select
information to facilitate access to court services responses intended to discourage or limit access or to encourage and promote litigation
general referrals to departments, agencies, or associations that may be of assistance subjective or biased referrals to a specific attorney or for-profit entity
court forms and instructions how to complete them assistance filling out court forms, unless you are physically unable, and a clerk, while another clerk witnesses, will record the information you dictate

Reference: Employee Guide to Legal Advice © 2016 Michigan Judicial Institute

If you need help with legal matters, especially if you will be appearing in court before a judge, you should meet with an attorney to get advice about your situation or to hire to represent you. Attorneys are trained legal professionals who are familiar with state law, court rules, forms, and procedures. You are not, however, required to have an attorney; all adult citizens have a constitutional right to represent themselves in court.

If you do decide to represent yourself, the judge may give you some general procedural guidance during the hearing, but cannot give you any specific legal advice. The judge will follow all the court rules and rules of evidence that apply, and those rules may limit what information you are allowed to present.

If you choose not to or are unable to hire an attorney, the resources listed below will help you learn what to expect when you go to court and will help explain legal terms and procedures.

Michigan Reports Nos. 51, 53, and 79

Online Legal Help Resources

 Note: These resources can assist your self-representation by providing guidance and helpful information, but they do not provide legal advice and are not a substitute for hiring an attorney.

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Page last updated/reviewed for content October 25, 2021