When you appear in court without the assistance of an attorney, you are what the legal system refers to as a “pro se” (pronounced pro say) litigant—you are appearing by and for yourself. This is generally what happens in the Small Claims division of the court because the Small Claims division is designed by law to make it easier for a person to bring or defend a civil money only lawsuit without an attorney. Ohio websites providing resources for “pro se” litigants are listed below.
Although you, as an individual, have the right to represent yourself in court in a civil matter, if you are indigent or have low income, you might qualify for legal services provided by The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. For information on eligibility, call the Legal Aid Intake Line at 216-687-1900 or 1-888-817-3777, or visit their website listed below.
If you are charged with a crime or traffic violation, you can represent yourself, hire a private attorney, or seek legal representation from the Cuyahoga County Pubic Defender’s Office. Before the Public Defender’s Office can provide legal representation, your income level must meet certain guidelines. Persons whose income is below the poverty threshold will be able to receive counsel from the Public Defender at little or no cost. Persons whose income is slightly above the targeted poverty threshold may have to make some payment for services. Persons seeking the assistance of a Public Defender must complete a financial disclosure application. Contact the Cuyahoga County Public Defender’s Office for more information at 216-443-7223, or visit their website listed below.
The Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association also offers a no-cost lawyer-referral service for both civil and criminal matters, but you would have to pay any lawyer whom you choose to hire. For more information, call the Lawyer Referral Service at 216-696-3532 or 1-877-253-8227, or visit their website listed below.