When people who don't have lawyers visit a self-help center, they often bring court papers, lease agreements, receipts, photos, or other vital documents for their cases. They must also describe their problems to the staff at the self-help center. This explanation can be especially challenging for survivors of domestic violence, crime victims, and those involved in high-conflict family law cases. After receiving initial advice and information, the staff at the self-help center usually direct these individuals to other organizations for further assistance or legal representation. Additionally, these unrepresented individuals often have to take proactive steps to move their cases forward. These steps might include collecting evidence for trial, requesting a housing inspector to examine their apartment, or reaching out to a domestic violence service provider for safety planning and legal support.
Civil Justice sought funding from the Maryland Judiciary to create a tool aimed at assisting self-represented litigants. The team designed this tool to cater to the needs of not only unrepresented individuals but also the legal service providers who assist them with their legal issues. As a result, they developed the Maryland Justice Passport. This platform enables people to digitally connect with legal service providers and empowers them to actively engage in their cases.
A Justice Passport is a digital portfolio of information to assist Marylanders seeking legal help. A Justice Passport can be used to track applications for services, store important documents, and keep all case information organized. The Justice Passport includes case information, documents and court paperwork, which can be scanned at self-help centers or other referral locations to help people organize and store their documents. Information belongs to unrepresented people and is secure but they can give full or limited access to providers so they can run conflicts checks, give brief advice, or provide representation. Justice Passports also contain an electronic to-do list which provides the unrepresented person with next steps. If they are referred to other providers, the app will auto-populate with pertinent information (address, phone number, hours, directions, etc.).