CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The first-of-its-kind free virtual aid kiosk has opened in Corpus Christi.
The kiosk not only helps those who can't afford legal services but, according to one local judge, it also benefits the court system.
Nueces County 319th District Court Judge David Stith said the kiosk will help bridge the gap for those who require more counsel but don't have access to a presiding judge.
"What happens often is a person comes up to court, it's their final hearing and they say, 'Okay, what do I do next?' And I can't give them legal advice. And if their paperwork's not in order, this is what I have to tell them. You can go to the law library and try to find forms. That doesn't help anybody. The person has to go away. It clogs up the court's docket. This is going to be a big help," he said.
The Texas Legal Services Center has initiated a pilot program that put's a virtual legal advice kiosk in 25 different cities across the state.
City of Corpus Christi Assistant Director of Library Technology Alan Carlos said the new kiosk will help simplify the process for residents seeking legal counsel.
"Our patrons can come over here and access our chat feature if they have any questions on their court cases or anything they're researching about, I mean, you name it," he said. "There are so many examples; I don't have enough time to mention them all. But it's definitely a good resource for people that can't access a lawyer."
With one click of a mouse, residents can get free legal advice for any civil matter in which they might be involved in. Texas Legal Services Center Executive Director Karen Miller said it's something that's needed all across the state.
"Prior to the hearings being available online, when people had to represent themselves without a lawyer, about 80 percent of the time, they did not come to court. They just didn't show up. And so the proceeding took place without them and a judgement would be entered without their input," he said.
Miller said that once virtual hearings were implemented, that statistic was reversed and 80 percent of people showed up for their cases. Stith said that without advice, many individuals don't complete their court hearings.
"The person has to go away. Clogs up the court's docket so this is going to be a big help," he said.
Residents can visit or call the library to make an appointment.
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