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Check-in kiosks for defendants, live online support for self-represented litigants and beefed-up court security may soon be coming to a courthouse near you. Technology, pro se representation and the increased need for emergency management are among the issues discussed in a new annual report by the National Center for State Courts. California is highlighted as one of the leaders when it comes to serving the growing number of pro se litigants. To assist them, the state’s courts offer tools such as streaming video and teleconferencing, according to Madelynn Herman, a knowledge-management analyst at the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, Va., who authored a section of the report on technologies available for the self-represented. In Alaska, Web sites are combined with telephone hotline assistance. In Montana and Iowa, self-represented litigants get virtual support through a live Internet chat with trained staff and volunteers. Illinois and Maryland offer interactive assessment tools to help diagnose problems that a pro se litigant might face. Interpreters go civil The 122-page report also noted the growing role of interpreters in the nation’s courts, a reflection of the nation’s diverse population. While the right to an interpreter in criminal cases is established through case law, states have only recently started to extend that to civil and family proceedings, according to the report. Delaware, for example, now pays for interpreters in certain civil cases, such as proceedings involving the termination of parental rights. The District of Columbia may appoint interpreters for any party or witness at any stage of a judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding, including civil and criminal proceedings. The report also discusses court security and recommends that courts create the position of director of emergency management, an executive-level position that would report to the chief judge. There have been several fatal incidences in recent years, including the March 2005 shooting in an Atlanta courthouse during which a judge and two other court officials were killed. In June 2005, a man believed to be carrying a hand grenade was shot to death in a Seattle federal courthouse.

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