Maryland is helping set the pace on mobile apps for access to justice. The press release lists the impressive list of tools and resources included:
- Access to the legal help pages maintained by the Maryland Judiciary with detailed information about which court handles a particular type of matter, available court resources, services, and forms for a wide range of legal topics.
- Quick mobile access to the People’s Law Library of Maryland, the state’s legal information website.
- Short self-help videos on topics designed to help those who do not have a lawyer.
- One-page tip sheets that summarize the topics featured in the Judiciary’s self-help videos.
- Information about the courts’ many self-help centers, including walk-in sites as well as phone and live-chat online services.
- A direct link to call or connect via live chat with attorneys at the newly expanded Maryland Courts Self-Help Center. Clicking the “chat button” will connect the user directly with an attorney at the Center for brief legal help on a broad range of civil (non-criminal) topics.
- Court locations and directions.
- A search function to find free or low-cost legal help using the People’s Law Library Legal Services Directory. This feature also provides access to information about the many local bar association referral programs that can be used to find a private lawyer.
- A “form finder” interactive program that searches for court forms based on case type and other specifics within a comprehensive directory of forms in both English and Spanish. (This feature finds forms; however, completing and printing the forms still requires access to a computer.)
- Locations and directions to Maryland’s many public law libraries.
- Access to information about how to find a mediator, a consumer guide to mediation, and information about community mediation centers across the state.
- Free access to Westlaw and Lexis versions of the Maryland Code and Maryland Rules.
- Information about how to request an American Sign Language or foreign language interpreter for a court proceeding or program. (This information currently is available in English and Spanish.)
- Information for court users on how to request a special needs accommodation.
I hope that the comprehensiveness of this list will remind other states of what can be done.
I hope states will also remember how important it is to fully convert the content so that it can be easily read on devices with small screens (obviously more important for phones than tablets). This is particularly important when there is a search window.
I also hope that designers will think of the huge benefits that can be obtained by using the geolocation capacities, so that people may not have to select the part of the jurisdiction they want help with (such as courts, legal aid, etc). Indeed hopefully this can be expanded to help people find the right courtroom or office (ideally through linkage to the case database.)
Finally, I hope states will be thinking about offering mobile triage tools, rather than a menu of information.