This 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.