A photo of a touch screen kiosk offering free legal assistance
Wayne County is among the first in the state for a new legal kiosk to help tenants and landlords. Photo supplied by Darrin Dolehanty

User-friendly tool now in county courthouse

Wayne County is among the state’s first areas to receive a kiosk offering free legal help.

That’s likely because Richmond’s ZIP code is one of the top 10 in the state for evictions, according to Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

Superior Court 3 Judge Darrin Dolehanty said when local court officials became aware of the opportunity to receive a kiosk, they quickly raised their hands and submitted what he called a fairly rigorous application.

Dolehanty said the computer looks like a bank’s automatic teller machine, and he believes residents will find it user friendly.

Wayne County requested a touchscreen standalone kiosk rather than a traditional desktop and monitor. The machine is wheelchair accessible, and has a printer and a scanner.

Dolehanty said he also believes the kiosk, which he calls a wonderful resource, is in a good place in the courthouse. It’s on the second floor near the entrance to the Superior 3 courtroom.

“An Indiana Legal Help kiosk at the courthouse in the heart of our community means that more people can access legal information and resources, including those who don’t have reliable internet or the ability to print or scan documents at home,” Dolehanty said.

Representatives for Whitewater Valley Pro Bono Commission, a local organization that offers free help with civil cases to area residents in need of services, said they were excited to hear about the new machine at the courthouse.

“Our organization realizes the great need for this kiosk, as we frequently work with residents who are experiencing some sort of housing instability, with as many as half a dozen reaching out to the Commission weekly,” said Felicia Carter, office administrator/ paralegal. “The kiosk provides a valuable, cost-free service to Wayne County residents that will ultimately aid in improving the well-being of our community.”

As part of its application, Wayne County agreed to keep the machine clean, turned on, and full of paper, Dolehanty said. Some county employees also have been trained on the equipment.

The kiosk provides a way for residents to easily access IndianaLegalHelp.org, which connects Hoosiers to legal resources and services.

IndianaLegalHelp.org, which has seen more than 1 million visits since its launch, includes legal forms, instructional videos, referrals to free and low-cost legal services, and a statewide calendar of free legal advice clinics. The IndianaLegalHelp.org kiosks initially will focus on serving Hoosiers facing eviction or housing instability. They will expand to include other legal topics later next year.

In Indiana, housing evictions are considered a civil matter, meaning individuals are not provided legal representation. They often are left to navigate the legal system independently. Dolehanty said evictions make up the majority of Superior 3’s small claims cases, although he noted other local judges evaluate foreclosures, bankruptcies and other legal issues.

Eventually, 120 kiosks will be placed statewide in an effort led by Indiana Bar Foundation, Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority and Indiana Supreme Court to increase access to housing stability legal services. They are using federal funds made available through the Emergency Rental Assistance 2 Program (ERA2).

In addition, the foundation and seven statewide partners are collaborating to offer a network of legal services, including brief advice legal clinics, legal aid attorneys and non-attorney legal navigators to support Hoosiers facing eviction.

Where to find free legal resources

The new Indiana Legal Help kiosk is on the second floor of the Wayne County courthouse at the public entrance of the Superior 3 courtroom. It is available during the courthouse’s regular hours, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. weekdays.

Hoosiers facing eviction or housing instability can find free legal forms, instructional videos, referrals to free and low-cost legal services, and a statewide calendar of free legal advice clinics at the kiosk.

Legal help also is available by visiting IndianaLegalHelp.org or contacting Whitewater Valley Pro Bono Commission, which helps area residents unable to afford private counsel on a variety of civil matters such as child custody, child support, divorce, foreclosures, guardianships, landlord/tenant issues and basic estate documents. For more information, call the local commission at 765-983-7353 or visit whitewatervalleyprobono.org.

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Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.