Rural residents can have trouble accessing remote court proceedings that proved their value during the Covid-19 pandemic, so advocates are looking to mobile “Justice Buses,” technology kiosks and Starlink satellites to help bridge the digital divide.
Minnesota Legal Aid’s Justice Bus stopped by the Faith in Action Office in Hackensack Aug. 9, during its visits in Cass County. The Justice Bus is a mobile law office bringing Legal Aid’s help to all of the communities it serves by improving access to legal services. Legal Aid provides free civil legal help to seniors and to low-income people.
Thanks to CARES Act funding, Minnesota now has a statewide network of legal kiosks. The COVID-19 pandemic moved much of the legal system virtual, exposing the digital divide as an additional barrier to legal advice and resources.
This Article spotlights Legal Aid Service of Northeastern Minnesota’s (“LASNEM”) response to the access-to-justice crisis in the age of COVID19. The first part briefly summarizes the civil justice gap, focusing on potholes littering LASNEM’s roads. The second part discusses the initiatives adopted by LASNEM since the pandemic struck, including the Justice Bus, Legal Kiosks, and the partnerships made with the courts and community partners to participate in eviction-diversion pilots. In short, this Article argues that bridging the access-to-justice gap in rural Minnesota requires a multidimensional approach utilizing technology as the vehicle.
The Bemidji Public Library is committed to providing the community with informational resources to enrich their lives. They provide a wide range of services to its patrons including WIFI, fax, printing, copying and their new Legal Kiosk.
As courts and legal aid offices were moving online, legal aid organizations struggled with how to address increased legal needs, while protecting public health concerns. Now for some Minnesotans, going to speak to their attorney now means heading to their nearest kiosk.
St. Paul-based Legal Services State Support hopes to double the number of residents who access legal services using its mobile app. With the new improvements, LegalCORPS embedded the LawHelpMN.org website into many of the 250 "Legal Kiosks" it has scattered around the state.
The Bemidji Public Library has partnered with the Minnesota Legal Service Coalition to help bridge the digital divide that community members are facing during COVID. As a result of the pandemic, many legal services and hearings have been moved to online formats. Court hearings are held over Zoom, and paperwork must be scanned and emailed, putting people who do not have access to technology at a disadvantage.
Reach Justice Minnesota has deployed more than 250 Legal Kiosks statewide to expand access to free legal services for vulnerable populations. The kiosks are stationed in a variety of community locations offering the public the ability to apply for civil legal aid services, access legal resources, and, in some cases, attend online meetings and remote court hearings in privacy.
Reach Justice Minnesota is a series of initiatives that leverage technology and emergency staffing to help protect Minnesotans’ basic civil and human rights in the face of an unprecedented emergency and disaster.