Limited legal services available

Jessica Rothschuh

Student Legal Services, a new program this semester, is offering its legal assistance to students.

The program offers students legal advice, educational programs and limited representation.

“This is a great opportunity for those students who want a legal security blanket,” said Gary Broadbent, executive director of Undergraduate Student Senate. “It’s a great deal for students and a great thing for the university. Eventually, it will help the community be more friendly and sensitive to students.”

Students approved the program in a referendum vote in the March 2004 Undergraduate Student Senate election.

“The Ohio General Assembly passed legislation that enabled students to vote in a program like this on their campuses,” said Carol Crimi Szabo, Student Legal Services staff attorney. “A student can contact us with any kind of legal concern.”

Sen. Amber Samuelson said USS chose the Student Legal Services program for the university because it was well-received at other Ohio universities.

“We’ve had several students calling already, wanting to use the services,” Samuelson said. “It’s pretty easy to use.”

However, the program has its limitations. Students will not be provided legal representation in cases involving the university, faculty and staff of the university, a member of a state office or agency, or a police officer.

“The Ohio Revised Code has certain stipulations on how student legal services can function,” Broadbent said.

In addition to legal constraints, the program is limited because of its contract with the university.

“We cannot represent a student in matters in which the university is on the other side of the controversy,” Szabo said. “It would really be a conflict of interest.”

It is not clear why the program cannot become involved in situations involving the police.

“A lot of concern has been raised in regards to the relationship between students and police,” Szabo said.

The program will consider assisting students’ situations involving police on an individual basis, she said.

Student Legal Services is also limited in the geographic areas it can service.

Because each student pays $7 a semester to participate in the program, “We are constrained by budgets,” Szabo said.

Legal representation is limited to issues in the Portage County Municipal Courts, the Portage County Court of Common Pleas, the 11th District Court of Appeals and the Ohio Supreme Court.

“We can still certainly provide students with legal problems elsewhere with counseling, advice, referral,” Szabo said.

Students interested in using Student Legal Services should call the office and set up an appointment. The Student Legal Services office is located in 118 McDowell Hall. The phone number is (330) 672-9550.

Contact student politics reporter Jessica Rothschuh at [email protected].