Detroit News – Prescott: In Michigan, access to justice a click away

Implementing cutting-edge, Internet-based technologies in our courts has the potential to dramatically enhance access to justice for all citizens, especially those long left out in the cold.

Courts are taxpayer-funded institutions, dedicated to helping members of society resolve outstanding disputes in a fair and efficient manner. Many of the people who work in and with courts are public servants, devoted to improving people’s lives. Yet, as the daily news and common experience make plain, our courts remain difficult, expensive and time-consuming to use.

Many areas of our lives have been revolutionized by the Internet. Emailing, ordering a prescription, renewing a driver’s license, shopping for a new home, buying a plane ticket, or disputing a credit card charge can all be done online, from home or mobile phones at all hours of the day and night.

But if you want to discuss a ticket with the authorities, or if you can’t afford to pay a fine all at once, it is still virtually always the case that you must appear in court physically — during business hours. Even a matter that everyone agrees will take only a minute or two to resolve often requires waiting for many hours to talk to the right person. Unfortunately, words like “cattle call” and “McJustice” apply to much of the work our local courts do these days.

What’s worse is that the people who suffer most as a result of this outmoded approach are those who can least afford it, and that’s inherently unfair. Even for trivial issues, going to court requires taking time off of work. For hourly workers, this is expensive, perhaps prohibitively so. For many others, taking time off to address an issue isn’t even possible, not without risking their jobs […]

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Posted in In the news.