Online Dispute Resolution for Courts

With online dispute resolution, your days to case closure are cut 50%. The proportion of cases that default is cut from 15% to 0.5%. And while your case volume is rising slightly overall, your staff time spent on routine hearings and procedures is cut to 20% of what it was. This could be your court.

Welcome to Matterhorn.

The story above is every bit true. Read on, and we’ll explain how Matterhorn courts have achieved these goals and more.

Faced with backlogs, too-high default rates, and long lead times in case resolution, courts are embracing online dispute resolution to improve efficiency and make the most of limited resources. And far beyond simple process improvement, courts are adopting innovative technologies to increase transparency, access to justice, and equity for all citizens.

Technology Evaluation: A Delicate Balance for Justice

While cross-industry technology case studies can provide a great starting point for defining successful benchmarks and best practices, courts are unique. Few industries operate under the same level of scrutiny or are expected to do so much with so little.

When courts implement a new technology solution, it is imperative to carefully select evaluation criteria and focus on the most relevant outcomes. The "right fit" solution must meet or exceed these success metrics and must be achievable in real-world applications. The solution provider must operate with the highest levels of integrity—proven worthy of both court and public trust.

Matterhorn offers several types of online dispute resolution, including traffic tickets, suspended license, parking ticket, prevention, warrant, amnesty, online plea, small claims, and family court compliance.

Online dispute resolution options in Matterhorn include traffic tickets, suspended license, parking ticket, prevention, warrant, amnesty, online plea, small claims, and family court compliance.

Tipping the Scale with Matterhorn

For many courts, online dispute resolution delivers meaningful outcomes while meeting the unique needs of the justice system setting—balancing efficiency with access, transparency and trust.

Matterhorn has been successfully used by courts to streamline everything from the most common traffic and parking cases to more procedurally complex violations and civil cases. Matterhorn is is Software as a Service (SaaS), available to citizens on their computer, tablet, or smartphone 24/7.

Matterhorn originated at the University of Michigan Law School, with a mission to provide the best technology available for our nation’s justice system. We believe measuring outcomes for continuous quality improvement is a critical requirement to fulfilling that mission.

Matterhorn Online Dispute Resolution Metrics: Outcomes that Matter

All Matterhorn solutions are rigorously evaluated against key court and performance metrics, including:

  • Participation (citizen and court staff)
  • Time and cost savings of courts
  • Case closure times
  • Time to payment
  • Default rates
  • Feedback from court personnel
  • Feedback from citizens

Analysis of these measures, both at the individual court level—as well as across the full spectrum of aggregated court data—reveals significant and positive outcomes for each of the metrics.

Participation

Citizen participation in Matterhorn has consistently exceeded the expectations courts in both rural and urban settings. Even though online dispute resolution is a novel way of handling court cases, citizens have actively engaged in Matterhorn online dispute resolution from day one. This demonstrates that people are not only willing to use online dispute resolution, but in many cases, may actually prefer it.

Survey: 39% of people who used the system said they would not have been able to come to court in person. This means that Matterhorn courts provide 64% more access.


Cases Close More Quickly

Times to case closure have been significantly reduced for courts using Matterhorn—from an average of 50 days before Matterhorn to just 14 days after implementation. But this reduction extends beyond the cases processed through the Matterhorn platform. On average, courts experience a reduction in time to close all cases, even for non-Matterhorn cases, from 50 days before launch to 34 days after.

Matterhorn decreases case closure times to an average of 14 days, compared with an average of 50 days pre-launch.


Courts Save Time and Resources

High participation rates have contributed to significant resource savings for courts—particularly in staff time and the related cost savings. The court benefits from reductions in time spent on administrative tasks and related hearing time for those cases, and staff can focus on issues that need more of their attention.

Other parties benefit too: law enforcement officers spend less time in court and more time in the community. Citizens don’t need to take time off work, secure childcare, or find a way to get to court. That means time and cost savings for them too—and a leveling of access for people who have the hardest time getting to court.

Courts using Matterhorn also benefit from an increase in court capacity. Data reveal that as the number of cases “heard” online increases, the overall number of cases courts process rises as well. Further, courts are able to handle these additional cases without increasing their staff.

staff-time

Courts can handle these transactions more efficiently with Matterhorn: dropping staff time from an average of 157 minutes to only 27 per case.


Improve Time to Payment

In addition, time to payment has been substantially reduced for Matterhorn cases. Prior to Matterhorn, these courts had never approached 100% collection of fines. Using Matterhorn, on average courts collected 92% of fines in just 30 days—compared to only 51% before implementation. And within 90 days, 99% of fines are collected through Matterhorn. With an ability-to-pay assessment included at the initiation of Matterhorn cases, citizens are able to begin a payment plan at the onset of their case and pay off their court obligations sooner.

Matterhorn collects 92% of fines within 30 days, compared with only 51% before implementation.


Fewer Defaults

Less than 2% of cases heard through the Matterhorn system default, compared to rates ranging from 13 to 37% for cases that don’t go through the system. The system has a configurable ability-to-pay “smart” assessment that courts can use to evaluate and develop an optimal payment plan or alternative penalty—when needed.

Matterhorn decreases defaults to an average of 2%, compared with 13-37% for non-Matterhorn cases.


Qualitative Feedback: Courts and Citizens Tout Matterhorn Online Dispute Resolution

Court personnel and law enforcement have provided very positive feedback from the Matterhorn system. In addition, citizens have been very positive about the Matterhorn experience. The user survey reveals that more than 90% of citizens found the website easy to use. And 92% indicated they fully understood the state of their case throughout the online process.

But perhaps the most important finding of the user survey is the evidence that Matterhorn is significantly increasing citizen access to the courts. Enabling access to justice and making the process easier for citizens is a fundamental goal for all courts. The Matterhorn system was designed to reduce the most common barriers to access.

The Matterhorn user survey reveals that for more than a third of the citizens using the system, Matterhorn increased their access to justice. In fact, a full 39% of respondents said they would not have been able to come into the court in person. Without Matterhorn, these citizens would have had little recourse but to plead guilty and pay any associated fines or to continue to incur penalties and potentially be issued a warrant if they could not appear in court to initiate a payment plan or address their ability to pay.

(Appearing in court) would have been difficult, as I would have had to take a day off work to drive 2 1/2 hours to the courthouse to appear. For people with no additional vacation, limited funds, small children, resolution online without the further expense of travel and possible lost wages is a tremendous and fair option. More jurisdictions around the country should have this type of access.

A Matterhorn user

 

 

Online Dispute Resolution Summary

Matterhorn online dispute resolution has produced positive and meaningful results for court customers across all key outcome measures. This points to both court personnel and citizens supporting a modern, technology-based option that can produce a more positive and profitable result for the courts.

In addition, Matterhorn helps courts level the playing field – enabling them to engage citizens, increase efficiencies, speed up case closure and collection - with lower default rates, all while improving satisfaction and access to justice—regardless of the court’s geographic location or resources. As part of our ongoing mission, Matterhorn will continue to measure outcomes and report these outcomes to customers and the market in general.