VIEWS: 82 PAGES: 4 POSTED ON: 11/28/2009
Sent: 9-12-07 Dear Colleagues: This email is being sent to Assistant District Administrators, Court Administrators, “pro se reps” (staff who were recently designated by their administration as local court contacts on pro se issues) and other stakeholders. Apologies if you get it twice. We’ve been busy making progress on the MJB statewide pro se initiatives, and we wanted to give you an update on what’s new, what’s coming, and to get your input on pro se services as we move forward. PLEASE…reply to the STAKEHOLDER SURVEY at the end of this email. What’s included in “statewide” pro se services? Self-Help Center website at www.mncourts.gov/selfhelp Public Pro se Computer Workstations in the courthouses Pro Se Call Center to handle questions from the public using the Workstations As many of you know, the purpose of creating a statewide “virtual” Self-Help Center was to provide a baseline level of access to legal information and resources for all persons with cases in Minnesota District Courts, regardless of their geographic location or income level. This assistance is intended to improve access to justice and case outcomes. In June of 2006, we launched a new statewide website at www.mncourts.gov/selfhelp. The website provides educational information, interactive forms, videos, lawyer referral information, and more. To support users of the website, staff in the 4 District Self-Help Center have been helping the public since June of 2006, via the "Contact Us” form on the Self-Help Center website. In October 2007, the Pro Se Call Center will open in a few pilot counties. The public will access the call center through “Voice over IP” (VOIP) phones located at the Pro Se Workstations, which connect directly to the Call Center. The “virtual” Self-Help Center was not designed to replace local court staff, but rather to serve as an additional resource for people who need more comprehensive help with selecting and filling out forms, understanding court procedures, and finding other resources. Because each court has local procedures and community resources, SHC staff will refer people back to their local court administration for further guidance on local procedure. Our goal is to continuously improve the Self-Help Center website, so that people can independently find answers to their questions. People needing more guidance can use the VoIP phone to get help from Call Center staff. People using the website from home or elsewhere will NOT have access to the Call Center due to staffing constraints, however they can always email us by using the "Contact Us" link on the website. th Who works in the statewide Self-Help Center? Katrina Zabinski, Supervising Staff Attorney Melissa Kantola, Staff Attorney (temporary) Open Staff Attorney position (temporary) th (612)596-9134 (612)348-8812 (612)348-9124 Susan Ledray, 4 District Manager of Pro Se Services, is the manager for this statewide project and team lead for the Pro Se Strategic Planning Team for the State (612)348-8468. Contacts for court staff and business partners: You may contact any of the people listed above with questions about statewide pro se services. If you recently received a business card for Katrina Zabinski, please only share that information with court staff or business partners who have questions about our statewide pro se services and for issues with the pro se workstations. Please do NOT give her phone number or contact information to the public. Contacts for the public: The general public and pro se litigants should be directed to our website at www.mncourts.gov/selfhelp where they can submit questions via our Contact Us form (located on the left menu of links on our website.) Please note that the Contact Us form requires an email address from the customer to get our reply. The Pro Se Workstations do not have Outlook, so customers at the Workstations must use their personal email accounts. We try to reply to questions within 2 business days. When the call-center service is available in your county, customers can use the phone located at the Workstation. In the future, we plan to provide a telephone number that the public can call from any phone and we’ll publish that number on our SHC website. See attached “Phone Not in Service” sign to be attached to pro se phone until call-center is launched in your county. See attached SHC “bookmark” document to print on cardstock and distribute as a handout at your courthouse or other locations. News & Updates Launched Summer 2007! Fillable PDF Forms Earlier this summer our SJI grant employee coded over 400 court forms in Adobe Acrobat making them fillable PDF documents. Users can open the forms with Adobe Reader, type information directly into the form, and use the [Tab key] to jump from blank to blank. With fillable PDF forms, the user can type information into the forms, but cannot alter the standard language, format or page count of the form. Due to Adobe licensing restrictions, filled-out forms cannot be saved electronically. Forms must be completed and printed in one sitting because user data is discarded when the PDF form window is closed. IMPORTANT: Please tell customers who use the public pro se PCs at the courthouses to close ALL of the online windows when they complete their session. This protects their privacy by discarding any data typed into PDF forms. Enhancing the PDF forms is a work-in-progress. If you hear of any problems with the PDF forms or have ideas for additional enhancements, please send your feedback to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Other issues with forms (updates or content revisions) should be sent to email@example.com at State Court Administration. Now arriving! Public Pro Se computers in all 87 county courthouses Each county courthouse is scheduled to get at least one computer, printer, phone, headphones, desk and chair to create a public workstation for pro se litigants. The Windows desktop on all of the PCs is designed with a logo that says District Court Self-Help Center and has two large icons, one for “Enter the Self-Help Center” and one for the new online “Child Support Calculator.” The PCs have full Internet access so that customers can use all of the links to resources that we have on the SHC and other court websites. Customers will be able to print from the workstations. [Note: “best practices” for printing is a work-in-progress.] Funding for printing costs, including paper and toner, is allocated in the District NET budget. Please send us your ideas and experiences so we can share collect and share with the group. A big “thank you!” to Bob Hanson, Scott Widman, and all of the ITD reps for their efforts and creativity in resolving issues and installing the pro se computer workstations. See attached sample “Guidelines for Computer Workstations.” Please modify and post for your location. See attached notice on “Data Privacy” on Court Computer to be attached to top of Pro Se PC monitor. Coming Fall 2007! I-CAN! Divorce with Children Forms and IFP Forms Try it out! https://secure.icandocs.org/mn2/welcome.aspx?screenid=2 (NOT for the public; still in development, so you may find a bug or two) The SHC plans to launch a new forms document assembly tool for Divorce with Children forms and the IFP forms. I-CAN! is an Internet based program that is FREE to users and is available any time from any place with Internet access. Users log onto the website and enter their name to begin their session. The program assigns them a password, and from that point on their data will be saved and can only be accessed with the password. Users answer questions by simply checking boxes, selecting options, or typing brief text. I-CAN! controls the entire form drafting process by preventing the user from skipping required information and educating them about legal definitions along the way. After answering all the questions, I-CAN! inserts the user’s data directly into all of the forms required for a Petitioner to start and finish a divorce with children, and for any civil litigant to apply for a fee waiver. There is a HELP link at the bottom of all the I-CAN! screens that lets users email questions to our SHC staff. Customers using I-CAN! at the Pro Se Workstations will NOT be able to send an email from that computer, but they can get help from SHC staff when the Workstation phone is available. See attached I-CAN! User Guide (PDF) DRAFT Coming Fall 2007! Pro Se Call-Center As part of the statewide strategic initiative, the MN Judicial Branch has allocated funds to provide pro se services on a statewide basis via telephone. Call-center services will be launched in phases, starting in a limited number of counties being selected as part of a “pilot” launch. The pilot locations will go live in October 2007. Initially, calls will only be taken from the phones at the Pro Se Workstations, but eventually we plan to publish the number on the SHC website. See attached “Phone Not in Service” sign to be attached to pro se phone until call-center is launched in your county. Coming Fall 2007! TurboCourt™ Conciliation Court Forms th Mike Moriarity (10 District Administrator) recently announced: “I am happy to report that the most current version of Minnesota Turbo Court, the interactive program to assist pro se filers to complete conciliation court documents, is in the final stages of production. The program helps a pro se filer to complete a conciliation court claim or counterclaim on line, and print off the documents. Right now you can review the program on the pre-production server at http://gamma.turbocourt.com/. I invite you to go to the website and try out the program by entering a dummy case or two and utilizing the various help files and error correcting prompts. Click on Minnesota on the navigation bar on the left hand side. If you have any questions or comments about the functionality or content of the program, please let me know. Please note that the prototype does not list all of the Minnesota counties but the final version does. Recent corrections to delineate required fields are also not evident on the prototype but will be in the live version. The cost for using the program and printing the form is $10 which is paid on-line to Turbo Court. In the future we hope to integrate with MNCIS so that the document can be electronically filed in your offices. We will be able to move the prototype into production on September 13. Our plan is to do a “soft launch” while we test the functionality and you have a chance to try the program. After this trial period, we intend to place links in the Self Help Center web page so users will have the TurboCourt option. Later, the State will make an official announcement concerning the availability of the program. Please share your comments with Mike Moriarity 763 279-0150.” Stakeholder Survey We need your input! Please feel free to send your answers as a “Reply” to this email. Please insert your answers below the questions. Q1: On average, how many pro se litigants come to your service counters asking for help each month? Q2: We anticipate that family law issues will be a very popular topic with the call-center. What other questions do you think will be common for the call center? Q3: The MN Judicial Branch encourages the use of state-approved court forms. If a customer needs a form that is only published by a specific District, is it OK for the SHC to give the customer that other District’s sample form along with clear guidance that the customer must: a) modify the form for their District/County and b) confirm with local court administration that the form is acceptable? Q4: Because each court has local procedures and community resources, we will often have to refer people back to their local court administration for further guidance. The District Court websites vary a great deal in terms of amount of information they have online. Would you prefer that the SHC refer people to your local phone numbers, or would you rather collaborate with the SHC on ways to enhance your District websites so they contain the frequently requested information and customers can then be referred directly to the websites? Q5: Would you like additional training for yourself or your staff on what’s available on the SHC website, how to use I-CAN!, or other pro se services? If yes, please reply with a contact name and number, and brief description of the training you would like. Thank you in advance for your feedback! We look forward to working together with you to provide outstanding service to our customers. Please contact me with any questions. Katrina Katrina M. Zabinski MN Courts Self-Help Center www.mncourts.gov/selfhelp
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