University of Michigan Law Professor and Co-Founder of Court Innovations, J.J. Prescott, will present at American Bar Association Center for Innovation at the ABA Annual Meeting in New York City August 12, 2017. His presentation is one of ten “micro-presentations” (8 minutes) selected for this TED-style spotlight event. His talk, “Using Online Platform Technology to Improve Access to Justice – Real access to justice: Bringing the walls of the courthouse down” highlights real issues facing citizens and the courts and the positive outcomes achieved through online dispute resolution.
Access to justice, in practice, means access to money and resources. And the people who need access to justice the most are generally the least equipped to get it. For millions of Americans, using state courts to resolve their disputes – often with the government – is difficult at best. Using state courts today for all but the simplest of transactions (i.e., sending in a check for a parking ticket) requires – at a minimum – travelling to a court and meeting with a decision maker in person and in a one-on-one setting. Reforms often miss that a significant part of the problem is structural. Even minimally effective access, therefore, requires time, transportation, and often the financial wherewithal to miss work or to pay for child care. The result is tens of millions of outstanding minor warrants, poorly provided resolution services, and the cascade of problems that we have all observed nationwide when citizens, courts, and law enforcement are at odds.
Access to justice for everyday citizens can be dramatically improved by introducing platform technology that effectively opens courts to everyone. In courts that adopt such technology (e.g., Matterhorn), citizens are able to communicate with law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, and other parties to seek relief or negotiate a resolution through an online portal at any time of day.
Introducing this technology dramatically reduces the time it takes for citizens to understand their situation, ask questions, negotiate, resolve their disputes, and pay any fines or fees they owe. Default rates plummet, and citizens engage more often with court personnel once the platform is in place. Cases close more quickly, the percentage of payments received increases, and it takes less time for courts to receive those payments.
Initial outcomes analysis shows
- Reduction in warrants by 36% in family court cases
- Reduction in family court show cause hearings by 27% because more cases were resolved before the hearing.
- A 15% to 50% decrease in case payment default rates in civil infraction and criminal cases.
- An 80% reduction in court staff time spent on routine hearings and procedures.
- A reduction in case closure rates from an average of 50 days to 14 days
- An average of 4.9 days to resolution for small claims online dispute resolution cases versus weeks and months offline.
- Overcoming fear of technology in courts and law enforcement agencies
- Overcoming perceived political risk from innovation
- Ensuring willingness to interact with courts over mobile devices
- Now in 25 courts across 3 states
About Court Innovations
Based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Court Innovations is the first startup out of the University of Michigan Law School. Matterhorn allows courts to handle many high-volume infractions completely online, saving citizens and courts time and money. Matterhorn-enabled courts resolve cases more efficiently and equitably while retaining judicial and law enforcement discretion. Matterhorn-enabled courts offer 24/7 access and education which empower defendants to work with the court to resolve minor violations informally.