A Guide To Legal Assistance
In The Phoenix Metro
It Is Not Necessarily True That Money Is The Only Thing That Can Buy Justice — A Guide To Help Those With Few Funds Help Themselves
By Charlie Parke
Special for Modern Times Magazine
Aug. 26, 2013 — Increasingly our everyday lives force us to make quick decisions that can have years of legal repercussions. Often knowing the law can save you from making a bad decision and protect you when you aren’t sure if someone is trying to violate your rights.
Employment, dating, marriage, and education are common situations where people wonder do I have to take this, is this legal? There are often ways to find out that are free or don’t cost that much.
Self-Service Legal Resources
In Arizona most of the laws governing you can be found fairly easily with computer access, increasing available at public libraries and other centers. State laws can be found at Arizona State Legislature which provides un-annotated versions of the Arizona Revised Statutes and are searchable as well as viewable by title and section. The Arizona Constitution defines rights you have as a citizen The Arizona Constitution, it is viewable online and a search box is provided to make finding items easy (keep in mind you may need to try a few different similar words to find the one used here).
Need to know about your rights in the court system and decisions the court has made? Try Arizona Court Rules to find out what is allowed and try Arizona Judicial Branch to find opinions, rules, and orders, MegaLaw offers free access to Arizona case law including Arizona Supreme Court and Appellate Court opinions.
To help yourself prepare for a court case, Maricopa County Superior Court offers a Self-Service Center. This provides several helpful sections such as an interactive list of court forms that may even help you fill them out. A list of lawyers allows you to select your area on a map and it will find ones who often have free consultation by law type, with notes about the lawyers education and fees. Superior Court Filing Fees will let you know the costs involved in filing paperwork yourself or at least if someone is overcharging you to do this work for you.
A number of law libraries are available to the public for free legal research in print and electronic formats. Ross Blakley Law Library, Maricopa County Superior Court Law Library, Daniel F. Cracchiolo Law Library, Arizona State Law Library, Pima County Law Library. While librarians are not trained to give legal advice they can often can be of assistance finding the texts you might need. If you do have to pay an attorney you might be able to save time and money by learning what laws you think are in question and whether paying a lawyer would help — if a law doesn’t seem to cover a problem you are experiencing you may not have legal recourse and paying someone to tell you that adds insult to injury. At the same time, if you feel your rights are violated such as First Amendment, search and seizure or cruel and unusual punishment, a law doesn’t have to spell out your exact rights and a lawyer may be needed to defend them.
For federal law, several options exist such as Findlaw which provides access to us codes by title and keyword. Thomas provides a searchable format to find out about congressional bills, including those introduced but not yet law and often who voted for and who sponsored those bills. U.S. Session Laws leads you to laws in the United States Code and which sections of the code have been amended by new laws, with most data going back to the mid 1990s.
What about Supreme Court, federal court and district court decisions. Supreme Court of the United States provides court opinions from about 2005 forward. Findlaw also has a page for this going often covering court opinions back to the 1890s Findlaw: Supreme Court Opinions with many search formats. Oyez tries to provide Supreme Court media, such as recordings of oral arguments before the court and information about individual justices, this sometimes allows you to get an impression of how judges may rule on decisions that may affect you and the arguments made so far is support or opposition. LexisOne provides free case law from about 2000 on with state, federal and Supreme court cases and a search function by keyword or citation. AltLaw provides free access to U.S. Supreme Court cases going back to around 1800 and circuit court appeals to about 1950. Justia provides a number of courts websites to find court opinions including the US Supreme Court, U.S. appellate courts, district and bankruptcy courts and most state courts. The Internet Legal Research Group (ILRG) provides similar links to numerous courts around the country including US Supreme Court, US Federal Circuit Courts, and the state supreme courts.
How about finding what your constitutional rights our as well as rules the government has to follow according to our charter. GPO Access offers a variety of analysis on the US Constitution with links both the text and to constitutional law cases. The Library of Congress link thru Thomas provides access to the entire series of Federalist papers written by founding fathers to provide support for ratification of the U.S. Constitution and often used by the supreme court to understand the intent of constitutional clauses.
If someone tells you something is illegal, including a police officer what can you do. You could tell them to let you know whether the law is state or federal, constitutional or a court decision. Let them know if they can provide you information on where to find the law you’ll read it yourself and see if it really says what they are saying. Keep in mind it is probably not a good idea to resist arrest while doing that, if you are arrested without legal grounds a court will probably have to decide what to do.
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