Region Legal Service Office Southeast (RLSO SE) legal assistance department visited Duval County Court to learn about the process many of their clients have to go through. The Duval County Court hosted a working lunch where the judge advocates held discussions with representatives from the Clerk’s office, the Public Defender’s office, the Veterans’ Treatment Court, as well as with a private practitioner.
Over lunch, the parties discussed the overlap between civilian and military practices, the generally positive treatment of military personnel from local courts, and how the legal assistance attorneys can better set up clients for success in the civilian judicial system. The attorneys also had the opportunity to observe the Small Claims Court’s weekly docketing process.
These cases included personal injury protection, credit card collections, as well as a litany of other types of tort claims. Lt. j.g. Shannon Welch found the experience incredibly insightful, particularly in what expectations to set for her clients. First, the process itself is intimidating; Welch noted “the room is packed with people –young, old, lawyers, plaintiffs, defendants—and there are multiple different people calling out names at the same time. People get sent to mediation, to the judge, back into the crowd at a dizzying speed.” Second, even if the client was to win in the proceeding, the most he or she can ask for is a judgment and not cash in hand. “I think that is the most difficult thing for people to understand, but the most important, before they turn down a settlement. What is the worth of cash in hand now versus the time and effort to get a judgment?”
RLSO SE legal assistance department is constantly striving to learn and better position itself to provide the highest level of representation to its clients and this visit was a great success on both fronts. RLSO SE supports the operational readiness of Department of the Navy assets in the Southeastern United States by providing responsive, timely and accurate legal guidance, support services and training in the areas of military justice, legal assistance and administrative law.