Legal & Government

Our Civic Engagement Specialist is here to help you! Schedule a one-on-one appointment today for help with finding the resources you need to answer your government and legal questions.

Jenny Garmon is the Library’s Civic Engagement Specialist. She is a graduate of the University of Connecticut as well as Ohio State University, where she earned her M.A. in Public Policy and Management, and Emporia State University, where she earned her Master in Library Science. In addition to her military service, Jenny is a former federal employee recognized for her award-winning work with teams as an analyst, branch chief, and adviser. Her primary areas of focus for the Library are coordinating media literacy and news literacy resources and events, connecting Kansas Citians with civic tools, coordinating tax preparation information, and voter education and registration. Jenny works with Kansas City’s legal and government communities to connect patrons with information and resources.

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ID and Birth Certificate Resources - Missouri

Missouri Department of Revenue - provides one (1) nondriver license at no charge to Missourians who wish to obtain a photo ID for voting purposes (and do not already have one). Call 573-526-VOTE (8683) or visit

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Bureau of Vital Records - provides one (1) free exempt copy of a certified Missouri birth certificate to an individual seeking to obtain one (1) free nondriver’s license to vote in Missouri if the applicant does not already have a current nondriver’s license or current driver’s license. Call 573.751.6387 or email

Missouri Secretary of State - obtain official documents needed to get a Missouri nondriver license. Examples include birth certificate; marriage license; adoption decree; U.S. Department of State naturalization papers; or court order changing one’s name. We will pay for official documents from other states or the federal government. If you do not have a Photo ID and need help complete this form to get started. The Secretary of State’s office will receive your information and help you obtain the documents you need. Call toll free 866.868.3245 or email

Kansas City Birth and Death Certificates (vital records) - please call 816.513.6309 or 816.513.6285 or email

Help with ID and Birth Certificate Costs in Kansas City, MO

ID and Birth Certificate Resources - Kansas

To get a free photo ID, individuals must fill out a Form DE-VID1 (Certification Requesting Fee Waiver for Nondriver Identification Card) (Español). This form is available at all driver’s licenses offices, all county election offices and online.

Qualifying individuals who lack proof of identity and want to obtain a free nondriver identification card may get a Kansas birth certificate from the Kansas Office of Vital Statistics at no cost. To qualify, individuals must:

  • Not possess and valid photo identification documents under Kansas law
  • Lack any documents necessary to prove their identity
  • Sign an affidavit attesting they do not have a valid photo ID or documents to prove their identity
  • Be registered to vote in Kansas
  • Have been born in Kansas

To get a free birth certificate to obtain a nondriver identification form, individual must submit the following forms to the Kansas Office of Vital Statistics:

  • Form VS-235 (Application for Certified Copy of Kansas Birth Certificate)
  • Form DE-VID1 (Certification Requesting Fee Waiver for Nondriver Identification Card) (Español)

Individuals born outside of Kansas, who do not have proof of identity and who do not wish to pay to obtain such a document from their home state may apply for a State Voter Identification Document. This document can only be used to vote in Kansas.

To qualify for a State Voter Identification Document, individuals must:

  • Not possess and valid photo identification documents under Kansas law
  • Lack any documents necessary to prove their identity
  • Sign an affidavit attesting they do not have a valid photo ID or documents to prove their identity
  • Be registered to vote in Kansas
  • Have not been born in Kansas

Food Stamps - Missouri

The Missouri Department of Social Services: Family Support Division may be able to help you or your family with food stamps, health care, childcare, child support, and other needs.

Food Stamp Recertifications - The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) currently requires Missourians to complete and send a periodic recertification form and any required documents to verify that they still qualify for SNAP (Food Stamp) benefits. The Family Support Division will mail a recertification form that will need to be completed and returned with any required documents before the deadline on the letter.

Food Stamp Interviews - You will only be required to complete a SNAP (Food Stamp) interview if you are a new applicant. If you already get SNAP benefits and received a recertification form, you do not need to do a phone interview at this time. If you are a new SNAP applicant, we will call the number you listed on your application to do your phone interview within 3 days of receiving your application. So you know it is the Family Support Division calling, they will appear on your caller ID as Family Support Division (855.823.4908).

The University of Missouri Extension in Jackson County - Kansas City can also help you apply for Food Stamps – please call 816.482.5854.

Food Stamps - Kansas

Kansas - Department for Children and Families Customer Service: 1.888.369.4777 | TTY: 1.785.296.1491

Kansas Benefits Card

Stimulus Check/Economic Impact Payment Statuses

The IRS and Treasury have issued all first and second Economic Impact Payments. If you have questions about your payments, visit the Economic Impact Payments Information Center.

If you didn’t get any Economic Impact Payments or got less than the full amounts, you may qualify for the Recovery Rebate Credit and must file a 2020 tax return to claim the credit even if you don’t normally file. See Recovery Rebate Credit for more information.

If you’re eligible for the credit, and either the IRS didn’t issue you any Economic Impact Payments or they issued less than the full amounts, you must file a 2020 tax return to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit even if you are not required to file a tax return for 2020. For more detailed information see the Recovery Rebate Credit Frequently Asked Questions.

Kansas City Area Assistance - Legal Aid of Western Missouri’s Legal Aid CARES Hotline - 1.800.990.2907 | M-F 9 am-4 pm

Filing Taxes

To find locations hosting tax assistance near you, use the VITA/TCE Locator Tool or the AARP Site Locator Tool. The locator tools are updated throughout the filing season, so check back if you don’t see a nearby site listed. Also, please review the other online resources and tax help tools on including tax forms, instructions and publications, online payment methods and options to file with IRS Free File – free for most taxpayers.

MyFreeTaxes provides easy, free federal and state tax help for households with an adjusted gross income of $72,000/year or less and it’s brought to you by United Way. You can also call 866.698.9435.

Social Security Cards and Benefits

You can use a my Social Security account to apply for a replacement Social Security card online if you:

  • Are a U.S. citizen age 18 or older with a U.S. mailing address (this includes APO, FPO, and DPO addresses);
  • Are not requesting a name change or any other change to your card; and
  • Have a driver’s license or state-issued identification card from one of the many participating states or the District of Columbia.

You can use your mySocialSecurity account to request a replacement Social Security card, check the status of an application, estimate future benefits, or manage the benefits you already receive.

The News Literacy Project encourages you to pause and take a deep breath when you see a social media post that causes an emotional response. The next thing you can do is search out credible sources before sharing, liking, or commenting. You can also think like a journalist; CNN journalist Christina Zdanowicz uses these questions to guide her next steps:

  • Who is this person?
  • What is the photo showing?
  • What is the poster’s point of view?
  • What is the larger story here? Are other news outlets reporting this story?
  • What are the details on the story’s page? Does the page’s logo match the organization’s logo? Does the URL point to a real news organization?

Here is a curated list of articles, books, and websites that can help you in your critical thinking and fact-finding journey.

Do you want to earn an information literacy certificate? You can do that with LinkedIn Learning and your Kansas City Public Library card.

  • Start with LinkedIn Learning
  • Log in with your library card and pin
  • Then search for “information literacy” and begin your course

With the LinkedIn Learning course, you’ll learn how to

  • Find information from a library, archive, database, or the Internet
  • Evaluate the usefulness and trustworthiness of the information you find
  • Avoid plagiarism and copyright infringement
  • Accurately cite sources

News Literacy

The News Literacy Project partnered with SmartNews, a news app for mobile devices, to bring you five steps for vetting news sources. The steps outlined in this infographic can help you cut through the noise and learn how to evaluate sources for signs of credibility – as well as for red flags that signal a source should be avoided:

  • Do a quick search: Conducting a simple search for information about a news source is a key first step in evaluating its credibility.
  • Look for standards: Reputable news organizations aspire to ethical guidelines and standards, including fairness, accuracy and independence.
  • Check for transparency: Quality news sources should be transparent, not only about their reporting practices (see above), but also about their ownership and funding.
  • Examine how errors are handled: Credible news sources are accountable for mistakes and correct them. Do you see evidence that this source corrects or clarifies errors?
  • Assess news coverage: An important step in vetting sources is taking time to read and assess several news articles.

Fact-checking Resources

Reverse Image Searching

In-Depth Tools

Keep in Mind

Fact-check Resources

What does civic engagement mean to you? FindLaw has a resource that pulls together information that could help you be part of the solutions for issues affecting your community, highlighting that a healthy democracy requires active participation.

There are all sorts of ways to be a part of those solutions: register to vote and be an informed voter, attend city hall meetings, consider like-minded national organizations (such as Partnership for a American Democracy, Our Common Purpose, Renew America Together, Citizen Connect and many others), connect with local organizations like UMKC’s Center for Neighborhoods and Urban Neighborhood Initiative, respond to Kansas City Spirit Playbook surveys that will impact Kansas City for the next 20 years, and so much more.

Federal Government

Federal Elected Officials

U.S. Senators from Missouri in Washington DC have Constituent Services teams ready to assist Missourians

  • You must be a resident of Missouri.
  • Your issue must involve a federal agency, not a state or local one.
  • Your case must not involve a pending court action.
  • You must complete and sign a privacy release form to comply with the provisions of the Privacy Act.

Congressman Cleaver’s Constituent Services team is ready to help Missouri’s 5th District with issues, like:

  • Help with a federal agency
  • Ordering a flag
  • Requesting tours and tickets for a visit to Washington DC
  • Considering applying to a military academy

Find contact information for federal government programs, listed by topic.

State Government

If you need help with a state issue, contact your State Elected Officials

Local Government

If you need to address a local issue (like city services or public improvements), contact your Local Elected Officials

How can you get started?

It can be intimidating to reach out, but you can lean on the experiences of others who have shared their success. You can search for like-minded organizations that could provide templates for you to use – I’ll be happy to help you search. You can also follow Emily Coleman’s advice in Call the Halls about contacting your representative. Here’s one example, from Emily Coleman, for a phone call to your representative’s office:

  1. Identify your name and city.
  2. State your specific call to action and pose your question to the staffer.
  3. Wait for a response from the staffer.
  4. Tell your personal story about why this particular call to action matters to you.
  5. Ask for your opinion to be recorded and end the call.

Reference Librarians are here to help you access information, resources, and legal materials. We can connect you with information and resources, but we cannot practice law, provide legal advice, do legal research for you, create communications accounts for you, or fill out forms for you.

Please consider contacting a lawyer before attempting self-help. A separate document with information about legal representation in Kansas City is available.

We can:

  • Help you develop a research strategy for your question; who to contact, where to look for information, how to refine your question and/or terms, how to locate items
  • Help you locate forms that may be applicable to your situation
  • Show you how to use our catalog and databases for your research
  • Help you find books, articles and primary legal sources (case laws, for example) that are pertinent to your question
  • Help you locate items when you have a citation
  • Reserve a time for you to use the Central Library’s Westlaw terminal, where you can research state and federal case law with analysis, statutes, and regulations; and access forms, journal articles, encyclopedias, select treatises and KeyCite.

We cannot:

  • Create an email account for you (but we can help you explore different options)
  • Advise you which form(s) you need (we can suggest forms that might be helpful, but we can’t tell you which one is the “right” one for you)
  • Fill out forms for you (we can coach you through instructions included with a form, but we cannot type for you or tell you how to fill out the form beyond the instruction included with a form)
  • Send completed forms to anyone on your behalf
  • Advise you on how to handle a legal situation or interpret the law for you
  • Tell you which laws or cases are applicable to your case
  • Read definitions, cases, or statutes to you over the phone
  • Do legal research for you
  • Tell you what you need to do to accomplish your legal goal

“Expungement is Missouri’s way of ‘clearing a conviction.’ When you get an expungement, the court orders your conviction be hidden from public view. You may apply for expungement by filing an application in the court where you were found guilty. If the court orders an offense to be expunged, you no longer need to disclose it in most circumstances.” Clear My Record Project at UMKC School of Law*

Review the Missouri Expungement Information Session (December 16, 2022): you’ll hear from Judge Janette Rodecap of the 16th Circuit Court and Clear My Record Project team members. You’ll find resources mentioned in the webinar here:

Check out these FAQs about expungement, including:

*Disclaimer: The Clear My Record Project and the UMKC Expungement Clinic have provided this information as a service to the general public. Use of this information does not in any manner constitute an attorney-client relationship between the Project/Clinic and the user. While the information provided is about the law, it is not intended as legal advice or as a substitute for the particularized advice of your own counsel. Anyone seeking specific legal advice or assistance should retain an attorney.

Library staff can not provide legal advice at the Library, but we can share information about available resources.

If you require legal representation, please consider these resources curated by Findlaw.

Legal Experts at UMKC: Virtual Self-Help Clinic

The Self-Help Clinic is available remotely. If you need to speak with one of our volunteer attorneys, please fill-out the online application below to schedule a video conference call. If you have questions or if you need help with research services please call us at 816.235.2271 or email us.

American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri

406 West 34th Street, Suite 420 | Kansas City, MO 64111 | Ph: 816.470.9933

Areas of Law: Discrimination, Election and Voting, Freedom Speech, Freedom of Religion, Immigration Rights, LGBT Rights, Privacy, Police Practices, Jail and Prison Conditions, and other issues of fair treatment by government.

Good to Know: The ACLU does not usually assist in the following types of cases: criminal defense or post-conviction appeals, divorce or child custody disputes, property disputes, tax problems, workers compensation issues, consumer complaints, landlord-tenant disputes, building code issues and complaints about lawyers or judges. For assistance, fill out an intake form.

Legal Aid of Western Missouri (Central Office)

1125 Grand Boulevard, #1900 | Kansas City, MO 64106 | Tel: 816.474.6750

Areas of Law: Public Benefits, Domestic Violence, Family Law, Housing, Economic Development, Aids Legal Assistance, Consumer, Immigration, Migrant Workers, Municipal Court Defense

Good to Know: LAWMo provides free legal aid through direct representation and various legal clinics to those who qualify based on income. The office will not respond to email requests for assistance. Call to learn more.

Domestic Violence


P.O. Box 4563 | Overland Park, KS 66204 | Tel: 913.378.1540

Area of Law: Debt/Credit/Bankruptcy, Disability, Education, Employment, Family & Juvenile, Foreclosure, Immigration & Naturalization, Life Planning, Public Benefits, Child protection, Civil protection orders: Initial proceeding, Civil protection orders: Contempt/Enforcement, Elder abuse

Good to Know: Attorneys may represent persons involved in or referred by another SAFEHOME program in civil legal matters, including protection orders, divorce and paternity. Call to learn more.

Immigration Law

Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas - La Luz Center for Legal Assistance

2220 Central Avenue | Kansas City, KS 66102 | Tel: 913.621.1504

Area of Law: Domestic Violence, Immigration, and Naturalization

Good to Know: This organization provides low cost legal representation to refugee and immigrant populations in the following Kansas counties Douglas, Johnson, and Wyandotte.

The Clinic (Sharma-Crawford Law Offices)

515 Avenida Cesar E. Chavez | Kansas City, MO 64108 | Tel: 816.994.2300

Areas of Law: Immigration, Deportation/Removal Proceedings

Good to Know: The Clinic provides free or discounted fees for legal services to qualifying individuals in immigration removal proceedings based on income levels. Depending on eligibility, some services may require a nominal fee.

Additional ways to search for legal representation include the following:

  • Avvo has ratings, reviews, and disciplinary records for lawyers in every state.
  • Search Martindale’s directory for law firms and lawyers using location or area of practice.
  • Find your lawyer with the FindLaw Lawyers Directory, where you can find profiles of local lawyers and law firms.
  • The Missouri Bar provides LawyerSearch to help you find a lawyer currently accepting new clients. Not all Missouri lawyers are listed in LawyerSearch - only those who have indicated that they would like to be included. You can search by areas of practice or location (city or county).
  • The Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association provides a search tool for you to find licensed attorneys in the area who have specialized knowledge and expertise. Participants must be lawyers licensed and in good standing.

For definitions of legal terms:

  • Wex, a free legal dictionary and encyclopedia sponsored and hosted by the Legal Information Institute
  • The Law Dictionary, featuring Black’s Law Dictionary Free Online Legal Dictionary 2nd Ed.

To help you get started in legal research

Findlaw’s Supreme Court Opinions

Supreme Court opinions since 1760 browsable by year and U.S. Reports volume number, searchable by party name, case title, citation, full text and docket number. FindLaw maintains an archive of Supreme Court opinion summaries from September 2000 to the present.

Gale Legal Forms: Legal Forms Library

You can use Gale Legal Forms to access thousands of downloadable legal forms from both Missouri and Kansas, including state, federal, business, real estate and personal forms. This resource also includes a legal dictionary.

Judicial Circuit Court of Jackson County, MO, 16th

The 16th Judicial Circuit, located in Jackson County, Missouri is part of the state court system. There are 45 circuits in Missouri. The circuit court is a court of general jurisdiction so, unless it is a municipal matter, most cases are filed with this court. Those include criminal, civil, probate, juvenile and small claims matters. The website contains court-approved forms and details about representing yourself in a family law case (translations available in Bosnian, French, Russian, Spanish, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese).

Kansas City Municipal Court

The Kansas City Municipal Division of the 16th Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri has exclusive original jurisdiction over City ordinance violation cases. The Kansas City Municipal Court is the largest municipal court in Missouri. They process more than 200,000 cases each year including:

  • Traffic violations (i.e. speeding, driving under the influence, and parking tickets)
  • General ordinance violations (i.e. trespass, assault, disorderly conduct)
  • Building code and nuisance violations (i.e. insufficient property maintenance, weeds, trash)
  • Animal health and public safety violations (i.e. no animal license, animal abuse/neglect, animal attacks)

Missouri Bar

You'll find a wide variety of guides from the Missouri Bar:

  • Business Law Resource Guide
  • Careers in Law
  • Client Resource Guide
  • Consumers and the Law Resource Guide
  • Dispute Resolution Alternatives: What You Need to Know
  • Domestic Violence Resources
  • Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and Health Care Directive
  • Eminent Domain
  • Family Law Resource Guide - Also handling your case in Family Court (produced by Office of State Courts Administrator)
  • Law and the Courts Resource Guide
  • Mass Disaster Victims’ Guide
  • Missouri small claims court handbook (Small claims court is a division of the circuit court presided over by an appointed judge. Small claims court was established to help people handle cases involving money ($5,000 or less, not including costs) by themselves and without a lawyer.)
  • Probate Law Resource Guide
  • Senior Citizens Handbook Booklet on laws and programs affecting senior citizens including new Medicaid laws in Missouri.
  • Steps You Can Take to Avoid Foreclosure
  • Turning 18 in Missouri

Missouri CaseNet

CaseNet provides access to the Missouri state courts automated case management system. You can use CaseNet to research case records including docket entries, parties, judgments and charges in public court.

Missouri Free Legal Answers

Missouri Legal Answers is a statewide virtual legal advice clinic. This program is provided through the assistance of the American Bar Association and is free. Qualifying users post their civil legal questions. Missouri pro bono attorney volunteers, who are authorized to provide pro bono assistance in Missouri, log in to the website, select questions to answer, and provide legal information and advice. Users are then emailed when their question receives a response.


You can use Westlaw to research case law, statutes, and regulations, as well as legal analysis in law reviews, treatises, and law journals.

If you need help working in Westlaw, please consider using Westlaw’s training and support website.

Do you need help as a tenant?

JUSTICE IN THE HALLS (TENANT LEGAL HELP CLINIC) – The clinic provides pro bono legal advice for low-income tenants facing eviction in Jackson County at the Kansas City Courthouse. The clinics are held Thursday afternoon from 12:45 until 3:00 pm on the 7th floor of the Courthouse. Services include advice for tenants with eviction related issues, help in answering eviction proceedings as well as offering referral and resource information.

Kansas City has all of its tenant resources here. Including KCMO’s Tenant Advocates:

The City also has a form you can fill out to document harassment.

You can also contact the hotline for the United Way of Greater Kansas City for help with rent, utilities and food by calling 211. You can also use United Way’s resource directory to find help.

Kansas Resources

In-Person Help

If you need to talk with someone over the phone, consider calling Legal Aid of Western Missouri 816.474.6750 or Heartland Center for Jobs and Freedom 816.278.1344 to work with an attorney.

If you have questions as a tenant, KC Tenants established a hotline 816.533.5435. They invite you to call with any questions, concerns, or incident reports. If their grassroots leaders miss your call, they will get back to you within 24 hours. Please let them know if you need more urgent assistance.

Online Resources for Landlord/Tenant Questions

If you have questions about words in your lease or in landlord-tenant communications, Missouri Legal Services created a Glossary of Commonly Used Missouri Landlord-Tenant Housing Terms (revised June 2013).

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are working together to help homeowners and renters during the coronavirus pandemic.

Learn more about:

Gale Legal Forms - Landlord-Tenant Forms – Search for the Landlord-Tenant forms inside Gale’s resource for Legal Forms.

Healthy Homes Rental Inspection Program for Kansas City, Missouri

The Healthy Homes Rental Inspection Program provides regulations for minimum health and safety standards in rental housing in Kansas City, Mo. There are several ways to file a complaint with the Health Department. You may call the City’s Action Center (3-1-1), call the Healthy Homes Rental Inspection Program (816.513.6347), or walk-in to the Program located at 2400 Troost Ave, Suite 3600 to file a complaint.

Heartland Center for Jobs and Freedom

KC Tenants

KC Tenants created this Incident Report as a safe place to report incidents related to housing / homelessness / COVID19. If you or someone you know is in crisis, facing harassment from a landlord, or if you just have a question about your rights, please submit your story and basic information to this form. Please indicate if you need more urgent assistance.

If you have a health issue in your home and you have already called Healthy Homes and the issue wasn’t resolved, KC Tenants can look into it after reviewing the incident report.

Missouri’s Landlord Tenant Law (from the Missouri Attorney General, revised March 2019)

Missouri Bar Association’s Consumer Law Guide (published July 2014)

Missouri Legal Services – Housing Issues

Each of these issues has its own pages with more information:

Self-Help for Tenants, Legal Aid of Western Missouri, K.C., MO

These self-help guides are for use in the Western Missouri service area only: They were updated in February 2020.

Tips Before You Rent What is Joint Tenancy?