Rural Courts

Resource Guide

Rural courts face different problems than their urban counterparts; they have to overcome obstacles such as large distances, outdated technology, a limited supply of resources and guidance, and reduced training opportunities. While rural courts benefit from having a smaller staff that promotes friendlier relationships with the litigants in the courtroom, many continue to face difficulties due to lack of funding and isolation.

Links to related online resources are listed below. Non-digitized publications may be borrowed from the NCSC Library; call numbers are provided.


Out of Sight: the Growth of Jails in Rural America. (June 2017).

MacArthur Foundation's Safety and Justice Challenge and Vera Institute.

This report examines the 436% rate of increase for pretrial detention in rural jails.

Nugent-Borakove, Elaine, Barry Mahoney and Debra Whitcomb. Strengthening Rural Courts: Challenges and Progress. (2011). Future Trends in State Courts.

Rural courts face unique challenges posed by their locations in sparsely populated areas, often with limited resources for themselves and for court users. In many places, however, the challenges are being overcome through effective use of modern technology and support from state administrative offices of the courts.

Griller, G., Suskin, L., Sayles, D., and Friess, E. Reengineering Rural Justice in Minnesota's Eighth Judicial District: A Case Study: Improving Efficiencies, Reducing Costs, and Enhancing Operations in Rural Courts.

National Center for State Courts (2010). The Eighth Judicial District, a 13-county trial court service area in west central Minnesota with a total district population of 125,000, is the most rural of the state’s ten judicial districts. This report provides recommendations on improving the court processes in the District.

Mahoney, Barry et al. Strengthening Rural Courts-What Should be Done to Improve Court Operations and Enhance the Quality of Justice in Rural America?. (Winter 2006). Court Manager This article provides a context for addressing rural court issues, defines key substantive issues and key themes for the future, and provides suggestions for possible projects and initiatives. Note: This article begins on page 11.  
A Report on Rural Issues and Delivery and the LSC-Sponsored Symposium: October 31-November 2, 2002. (April 2003). Symposium brings information from service providers and their clients to help “identify the most critical issues faced by LSC recipients who deliver legal services in rural areas, to discuss best practices, to identify existing or potential solutions, and to begin development of an action plan for LSC.”

Access to Services

Arkansas Access to Justice Commission Access to Justice in Rural Arkansas. (March 2015).
California Commission on Access to Justice Improving Civil Justice in Rural California Executive Summary Edition. (2010). Low-income Californians throughout the state have difficulty accessing legal services, but those in rural areas face additional challenges.
The Rural Pro Bono Delivery Initiative: A Guide to Pro Bono Legal Services in Rural Areas. (2003). American Bar Association Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service and the Center for Pro Bono
Henschen, Beth. Lessons from the Country: Serving Self-Represented Litigants in Rural Jurisdictions. (2002). American Judicature Society Report by the American Judicature Society.