From the Brennan Center
Existing Barriers to the Civil Justice System Worsened by Covid-19
Access to the civil justice system for self-represented litigants has worsened as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Buzzfeed News.
With courthouses closed or operating on a more limited basis, civil courts are struggling to meet the needs of self-represented litigants. The move to remote operations has also assumed that litigants will be able to navigate cases on their own, or have access to the technology required for virtual proceedings, further exacerbating an already strained civil justice gap.
Unlike the criminal justice system, civil litigants also have no constitutional right to counsel. In addition, the digital divide persists as a major access issue for many Americans, especially those who are lower-income or are people of color, who are less likely to have access to the technologies needed to participate in virtual court.
Some state and local court officials have attempted to respond to these challenges. The Florida Supreme Court, for example, has issued a list of best practices for video proceedings. Legal aid organizations, such as the New York Legal Assistance Group, have also created resources to help self-represented litigants navigate the courts during the pandemic.