What kind of legal help may court staff provide to the public?

Court employees are restricted in the type of legal help they are allowed to provide, because they must:

  • Remain neutral and impartial.
  • Not engage in the unauthorized practice of law.

The authorities for these restrictions are contained in several Washington State statutes, or RCWs (Revised Code of Washington) and court rules listed below.

This answer includes a summary of the types of information that court staff can and cannot provide to the public.

Legal Advice Guidelines for Court Staff:

 Can Provide

 Cannot Provide

 Legal definitions Legal interpretations
 Forms and instructions on how to complete forms Fill out forms for a party
 Procedural definitions Procedural advice
 Cites of statutes, court rules, and ordinances Research of statutes, court rules, and ordinances
 Public case information Confidential case information
 Options Opinions
 Access Deny access, discourage access, or encourage litigation
 General referrals Subjective or biased referrals

Additional "Can" and "Can't-Do" Guidelines for Court Staff:

Court staff can provide:

  • General information on court rules, court processes and procedures, and ordinary practices.

    Note: Court staff are not expected to know the answers to all questions about court rules, procedures, and practices.
  • Guidance on how to compute some deadlines and due dates.
  • Court schedules and information on how to get matters scheduled.
  • Telephone numbers of the local attorney referral service or information about other agencies that may offer assistance.

    Court staff cannot:

  • Advise on what to say in court.
  • Speculate what decision the judge might make or what sentence the judge might impose.
  • Comment about specific persons named in a legal document.
  • Apply the law nor give directions about how to respond in any aspect of the legal process.
  • Change an order signed by a judge.
  • Let a person talk to a judge outside of court.


  • Court staff provide information, not legal advice.  If legal advice is necessary, an attorney should be consulted.
  • The court, including the judge and all staff, must remain impartial.  They do not take sides in any matter coming before the court.
  • For non-legal help that the court can provide, see the Inside Courts page Support for the Public.

See also:  Court Management Council's Legal Advise vs. Legal Information documents

                 Answer ID: Legal questions.


RN id: 1564