WHAT IS UNIVERSITY COURT FRIENDS?
The University Court Friends (UCF) scheme is an initiative by the Community Justice Centre (CJC). UCF serves litigant-in-persons (LIPs) at the various divisions of the State Courts, many of whom have no legal representation.
Presently, UCF volunteers consist of law students from NUS, SMU, TP and the UK schools. As a UCF volunteer, you will be attached to a specific division within the State Courts, which can be the Crime Registry, Crime Courts, Family Registry, Family Courts or Small Claims Tribunal. At your specific division, you will attend to the LIPs there, understand their problems and help explain the relevant court procedures to them. You may assist in reviewing the litigant’s claims, sit in on mediation sessions and even interact with District Judges. Through this experience, we hope that UCF can add a real-life human dimension to the law you study.
A UCF volunteer would not deal so much with the substantive content of the law, but more with the court procedures and forms. Volunteers are sometimes required to carry out administrative work. What UCF gives every volunteer is the chance to see how ordinary citizens can be affected by the law and to learn how to kick-start a legal process, be it a criminal matter, a civil matter (involving small amount of money), or a divorce/maintenance matter
WHAT WE DO AND WHO WE WORK WITH?
Our Beneficiary – Community Justice Centre (CJC)
CJC is an independent charity based in the State Courts. They aim to provide a wide range of support services for litigants in Person (LIPs) and their family members. CJC programmes essentially provide free practical and emotional support to LIPs in need as well as free legal advice at the legal clinics. Through these programmes, the LIPs should be able to better present their case, follow proceedings and understand judicial rulings or pronouncements in their respective cases.
Job Scope of Volunteers
Our volunteers are attached to a specific division within the State Courts for 10 weeks. The job scopes for specific divisions are as follows:
A. Crime Registry
i. Assisting complainants with the drafting of their complaints;
ii. Explaining the complaint process to complainants;
iii. Sitting in during criminal mediations;
iv. Performing basic administrative duties; and
v. Observing the affirmation of complaints in the presence of District Judges.
B. Family Registry
i. Explaining to Litigants-In-Person divorce procedures and the necessary documents to file;
ii. Sharing with Litigants-In-Person the benefits of Mediation and encouraging them to settle matrimonial matters through mediation rather than a trial; and
iii. Assisting Litigants-In-Person with their documentation at the MMC and Family Court.
C. Crime/Family Court Facilitator
i. Briefing the litigants and their family members about the processes and procedures;
ii. Explaining the court etiquette;
iii. Providing information on Pro Bono Schemes and liaise with Pro Bono Services Office if required;
iv. Referring the litigants to the HELP Centre if they need further assistance or legal advice;
v. Assisting the family members of the accused in the payment of fine;
vi. Explaining the next step to the accused and the family members after judgement; and
vii. Liaising with courts in relation to family contact with the remandees; collecting feedback from the service users.
D. Small Claims Tribunal
i. Processing fax claims;
ii. Assisting claimants with lodging their claims (e.g. explaining the claim forms to claimants, helping claimants record their statements of facts);
iii. Explaining procedures and encouraging settlement between parties during a Pre-Consultation, before they attend a Consultation (similar to a mediation) in front of an Assistant Registrar; and
iv. Sitting in with the Registrars/Magistrates during Consultations
CJC Fundraising Concert
In anticipation of its fifth anniversary in 2017, CJC organised a fundraising concert in October 2016 to commemorate the special occasion, while doing something different from its usual charity golf events.
The CJC Fundraising Concert was held at The Arts House, a museum which used to be our Old Parliament House. Concert attendees got to sit at the very seats our country’s founding leaders sat at during parliament sessions, and enjoy a wide range of music performed by Singapore’s legal community. There were music performances by judges, lawyers, volunteers and staff representing different parts of the court community.
To show our support to CJC during this joyous occasion, our PBG EXCO and UCF volunteers helped out for this event. We assisted in ushering guests, registering them for the event and collecting donations. This was our first ad-hoc collaboration with CJC; while this event did not provide a typical pro bono experience, it was certainly very humbling seeing so many members of the legal fraternity come together for a good cause. We hope that this event has strengthened PBG’s partnership with CJC, and will pave way for more exciting and meaningful collaborations in the future!
“The time spent at the Family Courts has allowed me to go beyond a professional, distant understanding of the law. Seeing how it commands changes in people’s lives just drives home the point that law is necessarily the foundation of human society and is needed to resolve disputes”- Sabrina Chan, Y2 student volunteer at the Family Division
“For every angsty complainant with a negligible (and sometimes nonsensical) issue, there was another with a heart-wrenching experience simply asking for justice. It was this diverse array of cases which made the experience very memorable and has made me feel more strongly about the importance of a strong, efficient legal system in a country such as ours.”- Daryl Er, Y2 student volunteer at the Crime Division
WHAT TO EXPECT?
General Timeline for UCF
Aug-Nov 2016: UCF Semester 1 Run
Jan-Mar 2017: UCF Semester 2 Run
May-Aug 2017: UCF Summer Run
Aug 2017: UCF Appreciation Tea (TBC)