New report highlights services available to Minnesotans representing themselves in court
Posted: Monday, January 23, 2017
Minnesota has been lauded as a national leader in ensuring access to justice for those who can’t afford an attorney or choose to represent themselves in court. Now, a new national report is using Minnesota and seven other states to highlight how court systems around the country are utilizing technology to provide remote self-help services to self-represented litigants online and over the phone.
According to the ”Resource Guide on Serving Self-Represented Litigants Remotely,”
published by the Self-Represented Litigation Network
, the examples set by Minnesota and several other states show that the delivery of services to self-represented litigants through telephone and internet-based technologies (such as e-mail and online resources) is both effective and efficient, offering resource savings for both service providers and their customers. In addition, the report notes that remote services can actually offer benefits that traditional walk-in programs cannot, such as instant access to information, extended service hours, and greater privacy for litigants. The report was aimed at helping courts across the country design service delivery models that best meet the needs of self-represented litigants in their specific jurisdictions.
“Ensuring that all Minnesotans have access to their justice system is one of the founding principles of our court system,” said Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea. “In recent years, we have greatly expanded the resources available to people representing themselves in our courts, and have explored new ways of leveraging technology to make it faster and easier for Minnesotans to access needed information about their justice system. We are proud that Minnesota has become a national leader in this important area, and are continuing to look for new ways to expand our services in the future.”
The Minnesota Model for Helping Self-Represented Litigants
Minnesota is one of the highest scoring states in the nation on the Justice Index
, an independent study conducted by the National Center for Access to Justice that ranks how well states ensure access to the civil and criminal justice systems.
The Minnesota Judicial Branch utilizes a combination of remote and walk-in services to help self-represented litigants navigate the state’s court system. The Judicial Branch operates the Statewide Self Help Center
, which provides online, phone, and e-mail support to self-represented litigants across the state. In 2016, statewide Self Help Center staff responded to more than 23,000 phone calls, 5,000 e-mails, and 800 requests for court form reviews from self-represented litigants in Minnesota courts.
The Minnesota Judicial Branch website, www.mncourts.gov
, also offers dozens of Help Topics
on various legal issues and court process, which include answers to common questions, links to relevant court forms, and helpful tools and resources. Court customers have accessed the Judicial Branch’s online Help Topics more than 1.8 million times in the past 12 months.
Eighty-nine courthouse and library locations in the state are also equipped with self-help workstations consisting of a desk, computer, printer, and phone, which can be used at no cost to find court information, print court forms, and talk over the phone with statewide Self Help Center staff about forms, procedures, and legal resources.
Minnesota’s Second Judicial District in Ramsey County offers a Family Court Self-Help Center
(click on the Family Court Center tab, then on the Family Court Self-Help Center subtab) with in-person service available Monday through Thursday.
Minnesota’s Fourth Judicial District in Hennepin County offers in-person self-help service
(click on the Self Help Center tab) at the Hennepin County Government Center and family court self-help services at the Hennepin County Family Justice Center.
Minnesota’s Tenth Judicial District – which includes the district courts in Anoka, Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec, Pine, Sherburne, Washington, and Wright counties – offers daily or weekly in-person service
at each of the eight courthouse locations in the district. Staff also responds to telephone and e-mail requests for assistance.
In addition to the services provided through the Minnesota Judicial Branch, Minnesotans can also find legal resources at the State Law Library
or their local county law library
, or receive legal help through many non-profit legal aid organizations
and volunteer attorney clinics.
For more information on all the resources available to self-represented litigants across Minnesota, visit http://www.mncourts.gov/selfhelp
or call the statewide Self Help Center at (651) 259-3888.
Services Available from Self Help Center Staff
Self Help Center staff are able to provide instructions on how to complete court forms; review filled-out forms for completeness; help self-represented litigants locate free or low-cost legal services and programs; and provide information about court process, practice, and procedure.
This help is available for a wide variety of court proceedings, including: civil actions; conciliation court matters; criminal expungement; divorce, child support, custody, and family law; landlord and tenant law; name changes; and much more.
While Self Help Center staff are not able to directly provide legal advice, strategy, or research, they will be able to connect customers with services that offer legal advice and guidance.