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Judicial Branch Launches Electronic Tools for Self-Represented Litigants

Posted: Friday, July 13, 2018

Judicial Branch Launches Electronic Tools  for Self-Represented Litigants

The Minnesota Judicial Branch has implemented new electronic tools available on the Judicial Branch website to better serve self-represented litigants. One such tool is Minnesota Guide & File, which is now available for several of the most-used court forms. Guide & File is an online tool that uses web-based “interviews” to help people create court forms. Rather than filling in fields on a court form, the interview tool asks simple questions, and then uses the answers to those questions to produce forms that can be printed or filed electronically with the court.
 
The first Guide & File interviews for filing a Conciliation Court Claim and filing an Eviction Action Complaint are now available. Visit the Guide & File Help Topic for more information on the tool, links to the interviews, Frequently Asked Questions, and Tools & Resources. Additional Guide & File interviews are in development.
 
Also available are the new online fillable “smart” forms.  Online court forms are a critical resource for self-represented litigants. The court forms are available free of charge on the Judicial Branch website and are approved for use statewide. Fillable smart forms are now available for most court forms. These forms have built-in intelligence that makes it easier for self-represented litigants to complete and file court forms quickly and accurately. Some of the features of fillable smart forms include:
 
  • When an answer is completed for one field that answer will show up in other spots on the form that asks for the same information. This eliminates the need to retype duplicate information.
  • Questions on the form that are not necessary, because of previous answers, will stay hidden. For example, if an answer indicates there are no children, subsequent fields asking for the names of children will not display.
  • Some answer fields will expand to allow longer answers. Previous formats required a separate document to provide longer answers.
  • The forms allow for the use of an electronic signature, eliminating the need to print, sign, and potentially re-scan the completed document.
  • The forms can be easily prepared for eFiling by using the “Prepare for eFile” button on the form.
 
Self-represented litigants are encouraged to review the Frequently Asked Questions for help with how to open, save, and work with the fillable smart forms. There are step-by-step instructions for changing browser settings to easily open the forms for different Internet browsers. This is especially important for those using Chrome or Safari.  Visit the Court Forms Information Help Topic at http://www.mncourts.gov/Help-Topics/Court-Forms.aspx for more information. 
 
Other Resources Available for Self-Represented Litigants
 
Minnesota ranks as one of the highest-scoring states in the nation on the Justice Index, an independent examination of how well state court systems ensure access to justice for those who can’t afford an attorney, those with limited-English proficiency, and those with disabilities.
 
In addition to efforts to improve online court forms, the Minnesota Judicial Branch offers:
  • A statewide Self-Help Center that provides assistance to self-represented litigants over the phone, through e-mail, and through an array of online Help Topics.
  • Each courthouse in Minnesota offers a self-help workstation that can be used to find court information, print court forms, and talk over the phone with Self-Help Center staff about forms, procedures, and legal resources.
  • Walk-in self-help centers are available in Hennepin County, Ramsey County, and at each of the courthouses in the Tenth Judicial District. Additionally, each of Minnesota’s 10 judicial districts also coordinate with volunteer attorneys and other legal experts to provide free or low-cost legal advice clinics. More information is available at http://www.mncourts.gov/selfhelp.