North County residents looking for free legal advice will have their first local crack at a county-provided community law night this evening.
Since its inception four years ago, the Community Law Night, which offers free 15-minute legal advice sessions, has only been held in Redwood City, and surveys revealed that attendees came primarily from Foster City and south, said Mark Forcum, a San Mateo County judge and chairman of the community outreach committee.
The law nights, a joint collaboration between the San Mateo Superior Court, San Mateo Bar Association and San Mateo County, stemmed from an effort to make the justice system more available and extend help to those who might not be able to afford legal counsel.
"The northern part of the county is as important as all the rest of the county," Forcum said. "We wanted to do something to demystify the courts and bring the courts to the people."
Roughly 50 lawyers will be available for free 15-minute consultations on topics such as immigration, divorce, DUI, real estate, custody and employment law. There will also be lectures in English, Spanish and Tagalog on family law and how to represent yourself in court.
"This county is becoming more a county of the haves and the have-nots," said County Board President Jerry Hill. "A lot of people who may be victimized in society don’t know where to turn and may just drop it."
Forcum, who has been a judge in the county for 19 years, said the popularity of the previous law nights, which averaged approximately 200 people, spoke to the demand out there and the need to expand to South San Francisco.
Victoria Dorn, a communications associate with Legal Aid of San Mateo County, said the effectiveness of these nights was in the wide net cast to expose people to information that can help them.
The community law night will take place tonight from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the northern branch of the San Mateo Superior Court, 1050 Mission Rd. in South San Francisco. For more information, call (650) 363-4188.