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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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About Matterhorn

Courts, mediation centers, and government agencies use Matterhorn online dispute resolution (ODR).

ODR offers several key benefits including: increased access to justice, fairness, greater efficiency for staff, faster payments, and high customer satisfaction.

Matterhorn serves small to large districts, urban to rural communities, and decentralized to unified systems. The platform can match or streamline on your existing process and connects in a lightweight way with your other systems.

Matterhorn enables you to address a wide variety of case types including civil cases (such as small claims cases) and family court compliance, traffic tickets, civil infractions, and lesser misdemeanors (“Class C” Misdemeanors in some states), resolve warrants and pleas, and assess ability to pay.