Each county in Mississippi contains its own Justice Court where community members bring legal actions to settle local, small-dollar disputes. Court regulations and policies vary in each county, and they can be incredibly confusing for Mississippians to navigate, almost all of which are pro se litigants. The COVID-19 pandemic created more variation as judges and court staff introduced and adapted procedures and policies over the last two years. The Mississippi Center for Justice, through funding provided by SJI, created the Justice Court Access Program (“JCAP”) to build internet resources for community members to access crucial information ahead of their hearing. JCAP first identified the needs of the Justice Courts across the state by conducting a survey and reaching out community members to identify what tools and resources could best serve the people of the court. JCAP then created resources to fit with the results.
The JCAP website, www.msjusticecourthelp.com, offers visitors a convenient way to access guides on justice court procedures and policies, forms and filings, information on local law libraries, and other helpful references and links. The project also involved the creation of six self-help videos on issues ranging from preparing for court, post-hearing procedures, and how to dress for your court date. In addition, JCAP also created a virtual court navigator, “Lex,” who is hosted on the website and helps users navigate www.msjusticecourthelp.com in real time.