As published by Mississippi Center for Justice on August 3, 2021
Online chatbot helps ‘level the playing field’ in the courtroom, especially for low-income people and communities of color
JACKSON, Miss. – Mississippi Center for Justice and Mississippi Access to Justice Commission partnered with Cambria Solutions of Sacramento, CA, to develop a virtual court navigator (VCN) or chatbot that answers questions, provides hard-to-find information, and helps Mississippi residents better understand the often-complex Justice Court system.
Mississippi Access to Justice Commission and the Mississippi Center for Justice are nonprofits committed to advancing racial and economic justice statewide. The chatbot is featured on MSJusticeCourtHelp.com, a site developed by the nonprofits to help Mississippians successfully navigate the Justice Court system.
The chatbot, named “Lex,” offers access to free legal information for the state’s Justice Court system, which handles civil cases of $3,500 or less, misdemeanor criminal cases, and some traffic offenses.
“The chatbot is designed to respond to everyday questions in conversational language,” said Beth Orlansky, Advocacy Director for the Mississippi Center for Justice in Jackson, Miss. “The chatbot helps level the playing field.”
Many residents, especially those in the rural and smaller counties of Mississippi, represent themselves in Justice Court rather than hire a lawyer. The chatbot allows the Mississippi Center for Justice to expand its reach and help several hundred residents per year.
“Individuals facing garnishment and eviction rarely have lawyers to defend them, and they don’t know what to expect,” Orlansky said. “The goal of the project is to give confidence to people being sued for debt collection or foreclosure before they go to court.”
The website www.msjusticecourthelp.com is a collaborative product of the State Justice Institute, the Mississippi Center for Justice, and the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission. The goals of this project are to provide:
- Free legal resources to increase access to justice.
- Information to increase the potential for success of self-represented litigants in Justice Court.
- Best practices for litigants who cannot appear in court due to safety concerns.
The Mississippi Center for Justice is dedicated to dismantling the state’s culture of inequity and injustice. Support and staffed by attorneys and other professionals, the Center pursues strategies to combat discrimination and poverty statewide.