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Texas Supreme Court|at Odds With State Bar

DALLAS (CN) - The Texas Supreme Court rejected a request by the Texas State Bar to stop work on uniform divorce forms for use by pro se litigants.

Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson wrote to State Bar President Bob Black that work on the forms will continue, and that the divorce forms created by the Uniform Forms Task Force will be sent to the Texas Supreme Court Advisory Committee.

Jefferson expects the committee's recommendations to be received by April, with a review conducted in May.

The Texas Supreme Court created the task force last year to try to provide easier access to courts for Texans who cannot afford divorce attorneys. When approved, the forms would be accepted in any state court.

"Six million Texans qualify for legal aid. Even with the strong support of the Texas Legislature, economic conditions continue to force funding levels downward," Jefferson wrote in his Jan. 25 letter to Black. "Legal aid providers are cutting back as funding dissipates. They can provide help to fewer than one in five who apply. Texas lawyers have generously contributed both money and time toward legal services, yet each year tens of thousands of Texans are compelled to seek justice in our courts without legal representation. They need legal services they cannot afford."

Jefferson's letter to Black does not state that the Bar has tried to stop the process, only that the members of the Supreme Court "greatly appreciate and accept the State Bar's offer to assist with this shared mission."

But the Texas Tribune reported that the State Bar's board of directors in January "voted to urge the Supreme Court to stop the process."

The Tribune reported that Texas is one of only 13 states that do not have such divorce forms available to the public.

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