Some courthouses in Tennessee will soon have a special laptop computer and printer in their lobbies, called “court kiosks.” They're designed to help those who can’t afford — or choose not to hire — a lawyer, and are representing themselves in civil cases.
It will be similar to a current setup in the Old Knox County Courthouse. Residents of Knoxville who need to file paperwork on a civil case can log on to a special computer on the third floor of and hear this: "Hello, I’m a Knox County general sessions judge and I’m going to tell you a little about filing your lawsuit in general sessions court."
The county was inspired to set up a “legal help station” after hearing about a similar idea in Marshall County. By the end of the year, 10 courts across Tennessee will have similar kiosks, says Anne Louise Wirthlin. She’s a coordinator with Access to Justice, a commission formed by the Tennessee Supreme Court in 2009.
"The justice system and legal system is very precise," Wirthlin says. "You have to use the right forms and you have to use the right language. Someone who has never had any experience in the legal system is not going to know that."
A report compiled by the commission says 90 percent of people in Tennessee civil cases are not represented by a lawyer.
The kiosks will provide immediate access to legal forms, simplified instructions and how-to videos. They’ll also connect to free law clinics nearby.
The first 10 courts will be chosen by April, and the kiosks should be rolled out by the end of the year. The commission eventually hopes to open one in every court in the state.