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State courts helping Self-Represented Litigants (SRLs)

October 14, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an economic recession in the United States, and many are facing legal problems without the possibility of paying for legal representation. State courts will see a resultant increase in Self-Represented Litigants (SRLs). Many courts have begun adapting to this new reality and have developed tool kits to help them.

For example, the North Carolina Judicial Branch developed an online document preparation tool, eCourts Guide & File, a service that allows attorneys and the public to prepare court documents online in a few easy steps. Guide & File includes easy-to-understand interview questions to eliminate barriers and to simplify the process of preparing legal documents. Once the process is completed, the user will be able to print a document and file it with the court.

New York has also developed a way to help SRLs. The courts built virtual kiosks near entrances for Self-Represented Litigants to participate in virtual court hearings and to receive live video conferencing assistance from court employees. The kiosks provide access to justice for SLRs who lack the necessary computer equipment and/or internet access. The Kansas Judicial Branch is also helping those who do not have the necessary equipment and/or internet access. According to the press release, “the Kansas Judicial Branch received $1.6 million from the Kansas Federal Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Program to help pay for technology improvements providing broader digital access to justice and allow courts to conduct more operations remotely.” They placed computer equipment in courthouses for SRL use to appear for remote proceedings.

Hawaii also developed a volunteer program in which people can get legal advice by phone from attorneys for civil cases. Depending on the district court, services will be available during different days of the week. The Mississippi Access to Justice Commission, within the Mississippi Judiciary, made selp-help videos to assist people with their processes in court. The videos intend to help SRLs with general information on what to expect when they are in court.

The National Center for State Courts’ Justice for All webpage has information on what other state courts are doing and many other resources on this topic.

How is your court helping during this difficult time? Follow the National Center for State Courts on FacebookTwitterInstagram, or Pinterest, and share your experiences.

For more information on this or other topics impacting state courts, contact or call 800-616-6164.