Qualified individuals will now have access to legal documents and attorneys.
Legal Help Access Points, a free legal information source, will be located in the Vidalia and Ferriday libraries, according to Rep. C. Travis Johnson.
Legal Help Access Point is located in a private booth located inside the library and provides community members with a continuum of options for legal help.
Using Access Point, community members can access self-help resources and automated court forms and find out if they qualify for free legal aid.
Additionally, residents can get customized legal help and referrals through the Louisiana Bar Foundation and Lagniappe Law Lab’s Civil Legal Navigator; meet virtually with an attorney in a confidential enclosed space, and attend a virtual hearing with participating courts via an online court program.
“The program offers basic legal assistance such as forms for divorce, guardianship, social security, setting up wills and estates and issues with child support,” Johnson said.
Amanda Taylor, director of Concordia Parish Libraries, said patrons receive “peace of mind” knowing the service is free and private.
“It’s expensive just to ask legal questions,” Taylor said. “This gives people peace of mind that they are receiving accurate information.”
Taylor said a Legal Help Access Point will be coming to the Ferriday Public Library as soon as current renovations are complete.
“With this resource, our patrons will have access to the legal system,” Taylor said. “This Access Point makes finding legal help and understanding the process for navigating Louisiana’s legal system within reach of our community members.”
The Louisiana Access to Justice Commission, Lagniappe Law Lab and the Louisiana Bar Foundation, sponsors of Access Points, hope to continue to leverage technology to address access to justice issues in Louisiana and to scale this model by building additional access points in civil legal deserts throughout the state.
“This pilot program has been established in my district first,” Johnson said. “They want to give assets to folks who live in rural communities.”
The first Access Point was launched Aug. 11 in East Carroll Parish at the Lake Providence Library. A ribbon cutting for the Vidalia Library was held Aug. 18.
A ribbon cutting was led by Louisiana State Bar Association 2020-21 President Alainna R. Mire, who explained this project was developed in response to findings identifying parts of the state where residents struggle to access legal help.
The library was chosen as the inaugural location because, for years, librarians have ensured that the public has access to information and resources.
“Local libraries and their staff are often familiar, reliable, and trusted sources of information in their communities,” Mire said. “When people have legal issues, but do not know where to go for help, they often start at a library.”
According to Johnson, Access Points will play a vital role in the Miss-Lou because of the area’s rural setting.
“Citizens can go to the library in privacy and get legal assistance with things such as: Family law, housing law, disability issues, guardianship, and estate and will planning,” Johnson said. “Forms can also be printed from the website and citizens can talk to a lawyer via zoom.”
According to Louisiana State Bar Association’s webpage, as the fourth most impoverished state in the nation, Louisiana has 1,789,925 people that are potentially eligible for free civil legal aid.
“There is not enough assistance in these rural areas,” Johnson said. “Laws are constantly changing each year and this gives people up-to-date legal advise. It is a very, easy accessible, website that looks like an app.”