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People's Law School simplifies legalese

The world of law can be downright scary if you're on the outside looking in.

Every day, courtrooms are filled with sharply dressed lawyers performing cryptic rituals before judges draped in flowing robes. Almost everyone wears a suit, even if they had to borrow one, and it sometimes seems the whole courthouse is blabbing in lingo most people only use to win at Scrabble.

Often, the questions like "When should I sue?" or, for that matter, "How do I find a lawyer?" get lost amid the prima facie, juris doctorate and res ipsa loquitur.

Starting Thursday, the Clearwater Bar Association will try to demystify this puzzling world with its annual People's Law School _ a series of free classes that runs through April 28.

Local judges and lawyers teach the classes, which are held Thursday nights at the Clearwater Main Library, 100 N Osceola Ave. This week's topic is the judicial system from the judge's perspective, but the series covers everything from real estate law to the Patriot Act.

"It's a way of helping people in the community understand the law better," said Karen France, executive director of the Clearwater Bar Association. "This just seemed like a great way to do it."

People's Law School has been running for 15 years, except for a break last year, when the association had trouble finding a host for the program, France said. Depending on the topic, anywhere from 35 to 200 people show up to the presentations.

There's no homework, she said, you don't need to reserve a spot, and no knowledge of law (or Latin) is required.