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2007

New, simpler court forms now available for small claims

Madison, Wisconsin - December 3, 2007

Judge Gary L. Carlson

Judge Gary L. Carlson

Judge Edward Vlack

Judge Edward Vlack

Ann Zimmerman

Ann Zimmerman

New court forms designed for people who are representing themselves in small claims actions are now available to the public. The forms are accompanied by plain-English instructions and are available both on the Web and in hard copy.

The new forms are expected to be in heavy demand. In 2006, 172,330 small claims cases were filed in Wisconsin. In an estimated 70 percent of these cases, one or both litigants did not have lawyers.

These forms will make the small claims process easier for landlords and tenants, small business owners, consumers, and the many other litigants who find themselves involved in small claims cases in Wisconsin,” said Taylor County Circuit Court Judge Gary L. Carlson, a member of the task forces that created these forms and the previously released divorce forms. Carlson emphasized that the forms would be accepted in every county courthouse in the state.

The small claims forms are available in the Clerk of Circuit Court Office in each county courthouse and also may be downloaded from the court system Web site (the four-digit forms are the ones specifically created with the self-represented litigant in mind). Lawyers and others who have been using some of the existing small claims forms will note that many of these forms were also modified.

In addition to the new forms, written guides (same web page, denoted by numbers in the 6000s) are now available to help people navigate the court process. “These guides give litigants checklists of the steps that need to be taken for the many kinds of small claims cases that can be filed,” said St. Croix County Circuit Court Judge Edward Vlack, another member of the forms task forces. The guides also cover how to collect money or recover property after winning a case in court.

Development of these simplified forms and instruction sheets is part of a broader initiative by the courts to improve access to justice for people who are representing themselves in court. In 2005, the task force completed an overhaul of divorce forms, and in 2006, the forms became available on an interactive self-help family court Web site that takes users through an online interview to complete necessary forms. Statewide, about 70 percent of litigants involved in separation and divorce proceedings do not have lawyers.

Atty. Ann Zimmerman, who coordinates the court system’s initiatives to improve services to litigants without lawyers, said the task force hopes to develop simplified forms for probate and name changes: two areas where litigants frequently represent themselves in 2008.

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