Facilitating Access to Legal Information by Self-Represented Litigants: An Exploratory Case Study of the People’s Law Library of Maryland

Ursula Gorham

Abstract


In recent years, through the development and implementation of programs specifically designed to assist self-represented litigants (SRLs), courts across the United States have demonstrated a renewed commitment to the principle of equal access to justice.  The steady growth in the number of litigants representing themselves presents a challenge; courts, however, are increasingly relying upon technology to meet the needs of this growing population.  This article offers an in-depth examination of the People’s Law Library (PLL), a statewide legal information and self-help website maintained by the Maryland State Law Library that seeks to connect SRLs with a wide range of resources to help them better understand the legal issues relevant to their situation as well as the court processes and procedures that must be followed. Based upon data collected through interviews with PLL stakeholders and a review of documents related to the development and implementation of PLL, this case study is guided by two key research questions:1) How does PLL facilitate self-represented litigants’ access to legal information, and 2) What challenges has PLL faced in facilitating this access? The paper then offers several recommendations, based upon findings from this study, for using statewide legal information websites to facilitate improved access to legal information by SRLs in the United States.

Keywords


access to justice; self-represented litigants

References


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