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Presenting The People’s Law School

By Shawndrica Simmons, Esq., Chancellor

I am a practicing attorney in the tri-county area, as well as a community activist. I sit on several boards, from the ACLU to the Metro-Detroit AFL-CIO. I try to be the best steward I can be over the gifts that God has given me. Someone must be a witness and tell the truth to those that deserve and need to hear it. This year marks a shift in government. With all the changes to laws within the state, we have a duty to educate everyday citizens. Everyday citizens should have reasonable legal explanations to key issues that are of major concern to them. With that in mind, we launched the People’s Law School. Not everybody can go to law school, but everybody can use a working knowledge of the law. That’s the principle behind the People’s Law School. A lot of people are intimidated by the legal system, but understanding how it works leads to a better society.

Over three months (May, June and July), I along with a host of volunteer attorneys and judges traveled up and down I-75 educating the residents of Flint, Pontiac and Detroit about the importance of voting, how to vote strategically and answering legal questions. We covered topics from criminal expungement to navigating the Friend of the Court.

The concept of the People’s Law School dates back well over 25 years, giving citizens access to legal minds that might otherwise cost them upwards of $350 an hour. Most people are clueless about the legal system, unless they become entangled in a lawsuit or are called to serve on a jury. One session of the People’s Law School changed that and our students left with knowledge that was priceless. The citizens who took the time to participate graduated with a certificate and undoubtedly gained a firmer understanding of the basic rights to which everyone is entitled. Protecting rights begins with knowing what they are.

As a practicing labor and employment law and family law attorney, I spoke on those specific topics. My advice to those ignorant of labor and employment law is to know what laws protect you before you think that you have none. Consult with an attorney regarding specific issues you may have on the job and document everything in chronological order.

My advice to those intimidated by the Friend of the Court is to make sure you avoid Friend of the Court, if possible. Once you are in the system, you are in it forever. But if you can’t avoid it, know that all of the Friend of the Courts in the tri-county area have user-friendly Web sites that allow you to know your judge, referee and in some cases your case worker. Use this portal of knowledge to your advantage. You should always know your judge/referee and your case number. Further, any form you need to file a motion in court can be found at the State Court Administrator’s Office,

My sage advice is to not be intimidated by the system and don’t allow your frustration to take over. No one said it would be easy, but no one said give it up either. Persevere until you get results. In your pursuit, don’t forget to vote for justice first (non-partisan part of ballot) on Nov. 6 and elect the three supremes — Johnson, Kelley and McCormack — for the Michigan Supreme Court.

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