J.J. Prescott: Go to court without leaving home

0916frebels_jj01-as-smart-object-1This article originally appeared in an ABA Journal’s Legal Rebels profile.

A few years ago, J.J. Prescott went to court to deal with a traffic ticket. The University of Michigan Law School professor waited four hours to have a very short informal hearing.

“Imagine if I lived in a rural area where the courthouse was two hours away,” he says. “And as a result, I had to miss an entire day of work to go to court, which, if I were paid by the hour, would equate to $100 or more in lost wages. All of that aggravation, all to come over to have that conversation.

“I can’t believe that in 50 years, that’s how our courts will operate.”

They might not, and Prescott’s work could be a reason why. The U-M Online Court Project, which began with his collaboration with former student Ben Gubernick, created an online platform allowing citizens to resolve smaller legal matters—civil infractions, plus minor warrants and misdemeanors—without having to go to court. Users submit their side of the story and other information, answer questions and eventually hear from a decision-maker.

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CII Co-Founder Named “Legal Rebel”

LegalRebelThis article first appeared in the ABA Journal.

It’s a talented 10 we honor in this, the eighth year of the Legal Rebels.

Once again celebrating those women and men who are remaking their corners of the legal profession, the ABA Journal and its readers have found ample evidence of innovative thinking and forward action…


A few years ago, J.J. Prescott went to court to deal with a traffic ticket. The University of Michigan Law School professor waited four hours to have a very short informal hearing.

“Imagine if I lived in a rural area where the courthouse was two hours away,” he says. “And as a result, I had to miss an entire day of work to go to court, which, if I were paid by the hour, would equate to $100 or more in lost wages. All of that aggravation, all to come over to have that conversation.

“I can’t believe that in 50 years, that’s how our courts will operate.”

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Contesting online a new option for Monroe County traffic tickets

MonroeCourtHouse3This article first appeared in the Monroe News. Click here to read the full story.

Using a new software program developed at the University of Michigan, citizens can access the court 24 hours a day, seven days a week using their smartphones, tablets or computers to resolve traffic violations.

“We recognize that taking time from work, school or other obligations to wait in line at the courthouse can be frustrating,” said Judge Jack Vitale, chief judge of the Monroe County Courts. “Now citizens can pay or contest tickets from the comfort of their own home, at the time of their choosing. They don’t have to take time off from their job or arrange for transportation to and from the court.”

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Building a Connected Court in East Lansing, Michigan

NicoleEvansEast Lansing, Michigan’s 54B District Court Administrator, Denise McCrimmon, and Deputy Court Administrator, Nicole Evans, recently spoke at the NACM Annual Conference (July 10-14). In this blog, Nicole shares an overview of their presentation on building a connected court in an effort to increase access for citizens online.

Ensuring due process and equal treatment is a main concern for every court. At the same time, we’re expected to efficiently manage the court’s docket and provide reputable customer service. Accomplishing these goals is not always an easy task.

In search of a solution, 54B District Court implemented online access to the court through the Matterhorn platform by Court Innovations. Beginning with traffic citations, we were able to improve customer service by minimizing wait time for scheduling a hearing, thus reducing docket time.

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Traffic Tips for a Hassle Free July 4th Weekend

fireworksHeaded out of town for the holiday weekend? Before you pack the cooler and gas up your car, check out these five tips to maximize fun and minimize headaches on the road:

  1. Use a navigation app with traffic reports

Many smartphones come with a navigation app, but make sure yours has traffic reports available. Waze, a popular community-based navigation app, crowd sources the information from drivers on the road. The app can be used to easily report everything from traffic jams to car accidents and alerts users ahead of time so they can avoid the backup. Just be sure to stay off your phone while driving and have a passenger navigate the roads.

  1. Stay safe on the roads

With traffic at its peak, law enforcement will be out in full force patrolling to keep roads safe. We’re all in a hurry to get the weekend started, but avoid speeding and make sure to obey all traffic laws. Be extra cautious when driving in unfamiliar areas and construction zones. In the event that you do receive a ticket, more than a dozen courts across Michigan allow you to have your ticket reviewed for a lesser charge completely online. You can submit your statement just as if you were appearing in court. This is ideal if you’re an out-of-town driver who wants to avoid returning for a court date. Click here to see which courts offer this program.

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Online ticket review system streamlines process of resolving traffic citations

This article first appeared in C and G News and was written by Alex Tekip.

(Photo by John McTaggart)

(Photo by John McTaggart)

HARPER WOODS — Drivers charged with civil traffic infractions in Harper Woods — speeding, running a red light or a stop sign, among others — can now resolve a citation from anywhere with internet access.

The 32A District Court’s online traffic ticket review system has been operating since April. According to a press release from the 32A District Court, the online ticket review system allows the city attorney or Wayne County prosecutor to review a driver’s position that can be submitted online. The court follows up and lets the driver know his or her fines, the majority of which can be paid online.

Court Administrator Marcy Ruggirello said the online traffic ticket review speeds up the process of resolving a traffic ticket. She said officers typically set court dates anywhere from three weeks to two months after a citation. Online ticket review shortens the process to about a week.

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Two Technologies Create New Ways to Access Justice

This story originally appeared in The Huffington Post. Written by Jason Tashea, founder of Justice Codes. 



During the Great Recession, state court budgets took a beating. States like California and Minnesota cut budgets so severely that they had to shut down certain operations. Elsewhere, dozens of states instituted hiring freezes meaning there were fewer clerks, administrative staff, and interpreters to handle increasing legal issues caused by the recession.

Paul De Muniz, now retired Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, gave clear context to the impact of these cuts. “…[R]evenue shortfalls in many states are so great that proposed cuts to judicial budgets can imperil the judiciary’s constitutional responsibility to administer justice impartially, completely, and without delay,” he stated in a 2011 speech.

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Unclogging courts by resolving simple cases online

JJ Prescott

Written by J.J. Prescott, a law professor at the University of Michigan and co-founder of Court Innovations.

This article originally appeared in Bridge Magazine.

Accessing our courts should be as painless as possible, right?

At first blush, this goal doesn’t seem like it should be too difficult to manage. Once underway, most proceedings to resolve minor cases involving civil infractions or low-level misdemeanors — the majority of the issues our courts process — are surprisingly short and simple. In both formal and informal settings, what amounts to a minute-long conversation with a judge, prosecutor, city attorney, or court clerk is usually all that is needed for the parties to find a mutually agreeable solution.

So it’s hard to believe that most minor cases require months and a great many resources (both public and private) to resolve. This is the reality in courts across the state and the nation, despite our country’s centuries-long dedication to “speedy” process. In a typical Michigan court, it often takes many weeks for someone to get the necessary minute of a prosecutor’s or judge’s time in a courthouse.

Some percentage of this delay is due to the limited number of minutes available in a day, of course. But the bulk of the delay and difficulty derive from the organizing and arranging of these minute-long meetings. It is far more time-consuming and resource-intensive for today’s courts to get citizens, law enforcement and a judge into the same room to resolve an issue than it is for the parties to resolve the issue once there.

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Online Case Resolution Systems: Enhancing Access, Fairness, Accuracy, and Efficiency

Online case resolution (OCR) systems have the potential to dramatically increase access to our justice system. Part I introduces the concept of an OCR system, how it might work in practice, and its likely impact on courts and citizens. Part II argues that OCR systems can lower many of the barriers to going to court by reducing the need for face-to-face resolution of disputes; cutting the amount of time needed for hearings; mitigating litigant confusion and fear; allowing asynchronous scheduling that can accommodate work and child-care schedules; and offering a more reliable and easier-to-use means for litigants to voice their views. These advantages should especially benefit those of lower socioeconomic status, who often suffer disproportionately under the status quo. Part III contends that OCR systems need not compromise a judge’s or a prosecutor’s decision-making process but can actually enhance both. OCR systems can provide more, better, and easier-to-use information, and by removing a litigant’s appearance (race, gender, weight, etc.) from a judge’s consideration, can render outcomes less subject to implicit biases.

Download the full paper here.

Livonia traffic tickets now can be mediated online

Livonia District CourtThe days of having to go before a magistrate over a traffic ticket may be over for some motorists who receive one in Livonia.

The 16th District Court has launched a program that will allow some drivers who are issued a citation to resolve their cases through the Internet. Drivers are able to enter their information into an online portal and try to come to a conclusion with their ticket without having to take time off of work and come to the Livonia courthouse on Five Mile.

It would allow drivers to enter comments if they are relevant and submit them. Tickets must be current, having been issued within two weeks of the motorist submitting an online mediation request.

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