The COVID-19 pandemic and public health emergency moved the legal system virtual, creating a digital divide that has disproportionately impacted the communities served by Minnesota Legal Aid. Access to the legal system and a chance at justice is only available to those with the means and resources to use technology. COVID-19 made existing access issues worse as people suddenly found themselves unable to safely travel, offices were closed, and daycare no longer an option. With broadband services unreliable and nonexistent in many rural and low income communities, access to the legal system went from hard to nearly impossible.
To address this digital divide, the Minnesota Legal Services Coalition requested CARES Act funds to give communities access to civil justice by creating a statewide network of legal kiosks to be stationed in a variety of court, agency, non-profit, and other community locations. The funds had to be spent very quickly and the Coalition attempted to address the digital divide with an initiative called Reach Justice Minnesota, including mobile legal aid clinics called Justice Buses as well as a Legal Kiosk Project.
Reach Justice Minnesota created a statewide network of over 250 Legal Kiosks to be stationed in a variety of court, agency, non-profit, and other community locations. These community-based legal kiosks help Minnesotans who face technology access and transportation barriers to have a healthy and safe experience interacting with civil legal aid experts, as well as the administrative and court systems in which their cases will be proceeding. Legal Kiosks have helped Minnesotans attend court hearings in privacy and with a stable connection, safely connect with and apply for legal aid services, print forms and documents, and learn more about their legal issue.