Students Research to Improve Court Systems

By Melissa Crash

Published 08/13 2014 04:29PM

Updated 08/13 2014 06:26PM

Consider what it's like to go to civil court when you don't speak English, or when you don't understand legal terms.

A group of Indiana State students decided to take on the idea as a research project, and see what it's like to walk a mile in someone else's shoes.

For many Vigo County residents those scenarios are real life experiences.

The student researchers found, there are few legal resources for the poor, and a need in the community for research on these certain topics.

Five college students, all wanting to make a legal change, researching ways to increase access to civil justice for low-income defendants.

The first step, was to discover what's happening outside the Wabash Valley.

Abbey Rogers, one of the student researchers said, "What other cities are doing and what other states are doing and how we have the potential to help low income people in our community as well."

For the past 10 weeks, the students spent hours studying, observing real civil court hearings and figuring out how they can make a legal change.

"If we implemented more legal assistance in this area, maybe there would be more prepared and more understanding of, I have this case and I can raise a defense, and I can have a chance at least at having a fair chance in court," said Rogers.

The students focused on specific areas, like housing, income and language skills, to find out the impact on the legal process.

Brooklyn Hollis, another member of the student research group said, "Each of kind of picked a topic that they discussed in that project and kind of went from there."

Judge David Bolk of Vigo County says the work provided by the students has a lot of potential to go far in the court system.

"It's been a focus over the last six to eight years in the judiciary of giving access and figuring out what kind of access people really have to the court system. Particularly those who can't afford an attorney," said Bolk.

Students say more research is needed, especially in the areas of civil court outcomes.

"I feel like I'll really be able to apply the knowledge that I learned from this experience and my studies and hopefully in law school after being at ISU," said Hollis.

Not only will this effect Vigo County, the students plan to present their findings to the Indiana Pro-Bono Commission in September.

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