Legal News – De-clogging the courts

If you’ve ever spent an entire morning sitting in a packed courtroom to negotiate an outstanding parking or traffic ticket, you’ll appreciate a new system intended to nudge the courts closer to modern times.

The Online Court Project, funded by the University of Michigan and developed by Court Innovations, Inc., allows citizens who’ve received minor civil infractions or traffic tickets to seek reduced charges or other solutions online.

The program is currently being piloted in 14-A1 District Court, which covers Pittsfield Township. Eligible individuals simply go to the Court Innovations’ website at, type in the information, and wait for the prosecutor and court decision-makers at the other end to examine their driving record and make a decision.

“The goal is to make the whole process easier for everybody on both sides, and at the same time, ensure that people are able to access the courts if they have concerns,” said Michigan Law Professor J.J. Prescott, who led the team that designed the new system.

“That’s what courts are there for—to resolve disputes while at the same time making sure that people get a fair opportunity to have their concerns addressed.”

In-person meetings with a judge or magistrate are not only time-consuming, intimidating, and confusing—they’re often unnecessary, and requiring them can be counterproductive, if people decide not to use the courts as a result, Prescott said. And while litigants can already pay fines online, those with concerns about their case must go to court and face a tedious process that involves travel, parking, and taking time off work.

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