Find a Form on the Courts’ Website
Is there a form on the South Carolina courts’ website that you can fill out, to take your landlord to court?1
Fairly often at the reference desk, we get questions like this from our patrons who are members of the general public. As law librarians, we can’t give legal advice. That means we can’t point someone to a form and say “this is the form you need.” Oftentimes, no such form exists! But we can show people the courts’ website, as well as other books and websites, and encourage them to do their own research.
Can you find the form on the courts’ website that a tenant can use to take a landlord to court, if there is such a form? How long does it take to feel confident that you’ve either found the right form, or concluded that there is no such form?1
Building a Digital Index to South Carolina Court Forms
Another thing librarians can do—besides help people navigate websites—is to categorize information. A core skill of librarianship is creating indexes, research guides, or other finding aids for any kind of information. And for law librarians, that means legal information.
At the American Association of Law Libraries conference in 2018, Eve Ross presented a research poster to show law librarians in other states what the USC law librarians have done to index the court forms available in South Carolina.
Other poster presenters from law libraries across the country showcased various other types of projects they have done, so that we could all learn from each other.
The poster is currently displayed at the reference desk, for anyone who wants to take a closer look in person.
1A tremendous amount of background knowledge would be needed to adapt any form on the courts’ website to the needs of a specific tenant. There is nothing on the courts’ website that spells out with clear instructions what a tenant needs to do, step by step, in order to take their landlord to court. For this reason, the short answer to the question is: taking your landlord to court is more complicated than going to one website and filling out one form.