2 J. Open Access L. [i] (2014)

handle is hein.journals/jopacc2 and id is 1 raw text is: 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
1. Introduction
Descriptions of the American legal system often invoke the concept of
equal access to justice. For individuals who are represented by legal
counsel in a court proceeding, there is often little reason to contemplate the
possibility of being denied such access. A growing number of individuals
acting on their own behalf in court, whether by choice or by circumstance,
however, are realizing that equal access to justice is an aspiration, not a
guarantee. Much has been written about the many ways in which the
justice system currently fails self-represented litigants (SRLs), particularly
those with limited financial means. And, by and large, legal scholars and
practitioners generally agree that the courts cannot sit idly by as SRLs
* Doctoral Candidate, College of Information Studies, University of Maryland at
College Park (ugorhos@yahoo.com)

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