Self-represented litigants in eight Tennessee counties–including Anderson, Blount and Knox–will soon be able to access valuable legal information and resources free of charge, thanks to a series of grants provided by the Tennessee Supreme Court and the Administrative Office of the Courts. The grants will cover the expense of purchasing and installing special kiosks in courthouses throughout the state.
The kiosks will connect self-represented civil litigants with a variety of tools they can use to better navigate the legal system, including information about legal aid offices, pro bono projects, court-approved documents, and more. Courthouse visitors will access these resources via an onsite computer or tablet.
The initiative, piloted by the Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission, seeks to address a prevalent issue in the state, namely a lack of legal representation, according to Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Cornelia Clark, who said, “While defendants in most criminal cases are guaranteed a lawyer, the same is not true for those who find themselves involved in civil cases. Often these cases deal with serious issues related to a person’s health and well-being, which makes it especially important that litigants are aware of the legal resources available to them. ”
So far, the AOC has announced eight counties that will receive funding to launch the kiosks over the next year. These counties were selected through an application process. Courthouses in the following counties will receive grants:
- Anderson County
- Blount County
- Dickson County
- Hamilton County
- Hawkins County
- Knox County
- Shelby County
- Sullivan County
At a later date, the AOC will announce two more counties that will receive funding for kiosks.
Anderson County Circuit Court Clerk William Jones, in a press release, said “As a part of the 2018 kiosk program our county and this office will be on the forefront of new technology and innovation in our state. Once this system is up and running, clerks in our office will be able to focus on duties at hand.”
Each kiosk will be customized for the particular county. All kiosks, though, will provide information based on the www.Help4TN.org platform, which was developed by the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and West Tennessee Legal Services. www.Help4TN.org serves as a storehouse of legal resources for self-represented litigants, offering educational materials related to a variety of subjects such as renters’ rights and child support, to name just a few.
The money for the kiosk grants came from both the Administrative Office of the Court’s technology fund and from excess funding collected as a part of the Supreme Court’s continuing legal education efforts.
The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission was formed in 2009 as part of the Court’s Access to Justice Initiative. That initiative is dedicated to meeting the legal needs of the many Tennesseans each year who are confronted with legal problems that they may not have the expertise or the means to adequately address.
More information about the Access to Justice Initiative is available on its website: www.justiceforalltn.com.
(William Jones press release regarding kiosks) Anderson County Circuit Court Clerk William Jones has been successful in securing Anderson County to participate in the 2018 launch of the court kiosks systems across Tennessee.
Clerk Jones stated, “First and foremost I would like to thank the Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission. I am proud to have sought and received this grant award on behalf of Anderson County from the State of Tennessee. As a part of the 2018 kiosk program our county and this office will be on the forefront of new technology and innovation in our state. Once this system is up and running, clerks in our office will be able to focus on duties at hand.”
Through Tennessee’s administrative office of the courts, Anderson County has been selected as one of ten counties to help those who are self-representative litigants. The project is an initiative piloted by the Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission. This new program will allow court clerks and their staff to direct self-represented litigants to an on-site computer or tablet where the user can access legal information and connect with local legal resources.
The kiosks program is based on the Help4TN.org platform and is customized for each county/court. Instead of tying time with clerks working on filings and deadlines, users of this system will be directed to local legal aid offices, local pro bono projects and clinics, court approved forms, and other resources designed for self-representative litigants.