by Beth Cronk, Meeker County Librarian
Legal information can be tricky to find. At a recent meeting of the Pioneerland head librarians and administration, the Minnesota State Law Librarian presented information about free legal resources available to everyone in Minnesota. Although I knew about some of them, I found this so helpful, and I thought I could share some of those resources with you.
The website lawhelpmn.org is a really exciting new resource for Minnesota residents. Part of the Legal Services State Support program, the site asks you questions and guides you to the legal resources you need. It’s set up to be user friendly when you don’t know what you need. For example, I could be a landlord having trouble with a tenant, or vice versa, and it would lead me to information from the attorney general’s office and court forms from the Minnesota Judicial Branch website. Maybe I want to make a will and I don’t know how to get started. Working through the website, I get to fact sheets about wills, court forms about probate and wills, and guidance from the Senior Legal Line about the documents I need. There’s also a Self Help Library on the website with sections like family, work, seniors, and other common topics people need legal information about.
Minnesota has a State Law Library in the Minnesota Judicial Center in the state capitol complex. It is open to the general public, besides serving the needs of the government and lawyers throughout the state. Their book collection is largely focused on state law, both that of Minnesota and other states.
You probably aren’t likely to visit the state law library in person, but you can make use of the library anyway. Visit their website and you’ll have access to a wealth of legal information. The section I’m most excited about is the forms finder. The website organizes them by topic, including things like adoption, bankruptcy, copyright, and criminal law.
Another section of their website that I know will be helpful is legal referrals by county. You choose the county you live in and get a list of low-cost and free legal services available to eligible people in your county. Many are not based in that county, but they serve people who live there.
For example, Central Minnesota Legal Services is based in Willmar, but it serves eligible clients from Meeker County on matters of family law, housing, and other particular topics. The Volunteer Lawyers Network is a statewide service based in the Twin Cities that serves low-income people over the phone or in person. There are sections of the referral list dedicated to disabilities, domestic abuse, immigration, and other specialized concerns.
Another handy link on the law library’s website is for ordinances. The law library’s staff has gathered links to city and county ordinances in one place for convenience. Click on “Litchfield” and it will bring you to the code of ordinances on the city’s website.
If you need help, click on Ask A Librarian to submit a question to their library staff. They can help you get a form, but they can’t tell you which form to use. Similarly, they can find you a statute, but they can’t explain it to you, and they can’t give you legal advice. Their role, like ours, is to direct you to resources. Not comfortable using a computer? You can call them at (651)297-7651.
A third website the state law librarian covered was the Minnesota Judicial Branch website, mncourts.gov, which is a wealth of legal information, as well. Click on Get forms to find court forms of all kinds, such as forms for a name change, criminal expungement, child support issues, and many others. You can also access criminal and civil caserecords if you want to find out about someone’s background or learn how a particular case was resolved.
When you need a legal form or a place to start on a legal issue, you can make use of these trustworthy resources for Minnesotans.