Webinar Video: Getting Started with ODR – a Gradual Start to Great Outcomes

On Thursday, December 6, 2018, Matterhorn hosted a webinar on gradually getting started with ODR. The webinar featured Magistrate Barbara Scherr and Court Administrator Nadezda Stojcevska of the 16th District Court in Livonia, Michigan. Hear about how the court got started with ODR and resolved over 4,700 cases online.

For all who attended, thank you for your interest. For those who could not attend, and for the reference of those who attended, here are the webinar materials. 

Getting Started with ODR Video

Getting Started with ODR Slides

ODR Webinar Transcript 

Dunrie Greiling

Hello everyone and welcome. The calendar on my computer or the clock on my computer has turned to two. I want to welcome you from all over the country and all over the world to our conversation this afternoon here in Michigan on getting started with online dispute resolution, ODR, hearing of the experience of the 16th District Court here in Michigan as they talk about how they had a gradual start to great outcomes.

Welcome everybody. I will just give you a little bit of logistical information about our webinar this afternoon. It is being recorded. It will be available along with the slides for your use after the event. I’m trying to answer a couple of our frequently asked questions ahead of time.

Feel free to share this with others afterwards and you’re welcome to do that. The Zoom interface offers us the opportunity to hear your questions directly, so there is … to read your questions. As this, our time together unfolds, if you have any questions, you can open the Q&A widget on Zoom and drop a question in. I encourage you to do that. That’s a great way to make sure your questions are answered by our panelists. Then there also is a chat widget as well available on Zoom, and if you can, if you could put your questions in Q&A, it has a nice interface for us to check off when they’re been answered. We tend to lose them in the chat. So please, focus questions on the Q&A.

Welcome. Thank you so much for being here.

Now I will introduce myself. My name is Dunrie Greiling. I work here at Matterhorn in Ann Arbor on product with our wonderful staff and our wonderful courts.

I want to now introduce our speakers this afternoon. Natalie, oh my gosh, I should have asked you, Stojcevska?

Natalie Stojcevska

Excellent.

Dunrie Greiling

Okay. The court administrator from the 16th District Court in Livonia, Michigan, and Magistrate Barbara Scherr, also at the 16th District Court will be sharing their experience with us this afternoon.

Magistrate Barbara Scherr

Welcome.

Natalie Stojcevska

Good afternoon. Welcome.

Dunrie Greiling

Thank you so much both of you for joining us. I know everyone is really excited to hear from your experience. As we get started, they’re going to tell you about how they get started and then they’re going to share what they’ve achieved and what they’ve learned along the way.

Some people ask, so we like to get this established right away. ODR means different things in different people. We’re going to be using the definition of ODR from the IJIS court component model working group and the working definition is that ODR is a digital space where parties can convene to work out or attempt to work out a resolution to their dispute or case.

Now I’m going to turn it over to our speakers to talk a little bit maybe about what drew them to ODR and what the barriers are.

Magistrate Barbara Scherr

I will begin this discussion. This is again the Magistrate at the district court in Livonia, Michigan. We have a very busy courthouse and we have a large volume of traffic citations that we process through this court. We were looking for a way to be more efficient as far as providing better customer service to the members of the public who receive traffic citations, as well as trying to figure out how to minimize the court cost and increase safety for both the public and court staff.

These are some of the reasons why we were attracted to this process. There are a number of people who find it difficult to come to court because of their own working schedules and that this seems to be a great way for people to use their electronic devices to try to resolve matters without having to physically come to the courthouse, go through a security screening process, and then be directed to where they need to go to have either a pre-hearing or a hearing on a traffic ticket. It saves the citizens, the folks who receive the tickets time and it’s just much more efficient. We find if someone’s able to look on their phone or their tablet or their laptop or desktop, whichever device they’re using to trying to resolve something.

We also appreciate the fact that the turnaround time as far as the court actually receiving payment on fines and costs, the way we have it set up here as payments are due in approximately 14 days from the date they first begin the process online. We find that we get paid more quickly as well which is a good thing. There are also people because of possible physical impediments would find it hard to get to court. Some people don’t have a valid license and they don’t have to drive here and possibly risk getting arrested somewhere along the route for driving on suspended. They may have physical situations such as the need for wheelchairs, walkers, things of that nature. There are also other people who just are intimidated by courthouse settings, so this allows them to go online and type a few sentences and have their case considered.

I’ll point out this may be useful to those that are listening. We here also we started probably I believe will be about 10 years next year a system where we have pre-hearings on tickets, so if someone actually wants to sit down with a liaison officer who’s a police officer who interfaces with the court to try to resolve something short of actually having a hearing with testimony, the officer who issued the citation, we have that available. These pre-hearings that we do, the court officer who acts as the liaison is also the same person who reviews the tickets online, so it’s actually you’re getting the same service but you can do it in the comfort of your home or whatever space you choose to use the interface with this online process.

There’s a recommendation that is made by that court liaison officer and the matter is then forwarded to me, or we also have two judges that are in our building that have participated in this online ticket resolution matter as well. The three of us work on these tickets. I’m the primary person who’s responsible for the system, but I’m very grateful that our judges when I’m unavailable step in and help out with it as well, and it increases the efficiency as far as turnaround time as well.I think I’ve said too much already so I’m going to stop talking and let anybody else who wants to chime in, chime in. So thank you. Natalie, did I miss anything?

Natalie Stojcevska

No, we’re good.

Magistrate Scherr

Okay.

Dunrie Greiling

Actually, I missed something. I missed actually reading, sharing your guys’ full bios, and I’m so sorry about that. I should have said it in the last slide. So if you’ll permit me, I will spend a little more time introducing our speakers.

Magistrate Scherr who just spoke had been the assistant city attorney for the city of Livonia in Michigan for 17 years, and she’s been a Magistrate at the 16th District Court since January 2013. Then Natalie, our court administrator, she has been employed at the district court for much longer than you might think if you look at her. She’s been there since 1998 and several roles most recently as court administrator for the last four years. But has also been involved in probation and was director of probation and deputy court administrator for a decade ahead of becoming full court administrator in 2014. So they’re bringing a breadth of experience to this project and which is … and to our time together this afternoon, so thank you both. Thank you for allowing me to loop back.

Then the next one, we’re just … yeah, Magistrate Scherr started speaking about some of the process and we’ll dig a little bit into that in a little bit. Natalie, did you have anything you wanted to share in the last slide or are you good?

Natalie Stojcevska

No, I think we’re good.

Dunrie Greiling

Okay. I want to just mention that ODR is used in several case types. The ones that are here in white are the ones that the 16th District Court is using at this time, so it’s for traffic and warrant tickets. We’ll be focusing on those types of resolutions for the rest of our time together.Then I want to … We always make sure to mention this. There’s a wonderful … Anyone interested in getting started with ODR or digging deeper into ODR, there’s a couple of really great resources that are available from the Joint Technology Committee up on the National Center for State Courts website. This is the ODR for courts, and one reason I’m pulling this in particular is there are a couple of best practices that they recommend as courts get started with ODR.

Two of them I think are in play here. I wanted to highlight them as themes for our conversation today with the folks at the 16th District Court which is limit complexity for the first project and they also recommend implementing in phases. I think that this team has done a wonderful job of both of those things, and so wanted to highlight. Feel free to go there for more info and these will be a little bit organizing our conversation today.

All right. Now a little bit deeper. For those of you not familiar with Livonia, we’re going to hear about Livonia and the court from Natalie.

Natalie Stojcevska

The City of Livonia is a suburb of Detroit. We’re northwest part of the Wayne County in the state of Michigan. Our location is actually approximately 20 minutes drive from downtown Detroit. Our population in the city of Livonia it’s approximately 96,400. We are the ninth largest municipality in the state of Michigan. We have the benefit of having a couple major highways that pass through us, thus the increase or high volume of civil infractions that we receive at the city, within the city lines, as well as the expressways that we connect traffic to.

As far as the traffic or caseload for the 16th District Court, as you can see in the slide, we have handled 31,250 civil infractions. This data is from 2017 caseload reported to the state court administrative office. Our misdemeanors are approximately 3,602, out of which we also handle drunk driving and impaired cases, approximately 410. We also address non-traffic matters and civil matters with a total caseload as you stated, see it stated there.

Overall our court is consistent of 40 employees. We have two district judges and they serve. They’re elected officials, they serve a six-year term, and we have one appointed Magistrate whom you have the pleasure of having present today. The Magistrate predominantly handles the civil infraction matters as she explained to you by a means of a pre-hearing that we also offer in formal hearings, there’s also formal hearings as options, but we have found that the pre-hearings are actually another alternative to the online mediation for the civil infraction. Those two features parallel themselves identically as to who reviews the citations, who makes the offers, and who presents an offer to the citizen.

That is pretty much mainly our demographic for the city of Livonia.

Dunrie Greiling

Now we’re showing the court homepage and I think I’m handing it off to the Magistrate to share a little bit more on the motivation. So you can … Actually, I’ll give you a little guided tour. This is the court homepage and you can see this, the link over to the ODR system is here in the side, online ticket mediation. It launched in April. Go ahead Magistrate.

Magistrate Scherr

I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to overstep your speaking. Well, this is more or less a follow up on some of the remarks I made a few minutes ago regarding slide number four. We in addition to improving customer service and also making things just more efficient, we are finding that one benefit as far as the courthouse itself is concerned is that we have now resolved since we launched this program on April 1st of 2017, we’re up to almost 5,000 civil infraction matters that we’ve disposed of. So from a safety and security standpoint, that’s 5,000 approximately people that haven’t not come through our building.

Although we welcome visitors, they have to be processed unfortunately in this day and age through metal detectors. We have security, a security team at the front door. We also have people coming in on non-traffic cases such as criminal matters, misdemeanors, and felonies, and civil cases. And if we can reduce our volume of foot traffic, it helps tremendously because on days when we have lots of people in here, no matter how much signage we have and how many helpful people we have trying to direct traffic within our building, we still find at least every other week that at the end of a particular morning somebody will be in the wrong courthouse or at the wrong part of the building. So we’re eliminating all those problems by handling things online.

Also, if we’re able to resolve something in this fashion, we’re reducing costs as far as the city needing to send police officers over here as witnesses on either informal or formal hearings, as well as the need to bring people in and testify and things of that nature. Those are just some of the additional benefits of doing this in this electronic style.

Natalie, if I have left something out that we discussed informally between the two of us, I’m certainly happy to have you add whatever it is I may have left off.

Natalie Stojcevska

So far so good.

Magistrate Scherr

Okay, thank you. Thumbs up to quote George Bush. May he rest in peace.

Dunrie Greiling

All right, so I guess I’m curious if you recall the farthest distance someone has traveled to the court online, do you have any sense of that, how, what your farthest case was? Or you guys are really doing cases in Michigan, aren’t you?

Magistrate Scherr

Well, we’re not allowing out-of-state drivers because it’s difficult for us to get the information that we need to evaluate their cases. We also do not allow Canadian residents to do the online process. Those people can either appear in person or they can write letters to the Magistrate and I correspond with people on a regular basis. So that’s another way that we resolve things not in person, the old fashioned pen and paper and stamps and all that.

I think there might be some people under the age of 20 that don’t even know what a stamp or post office is like that.

Dunrie Greiling

But you guys are multi-channel, you’re available to the public in any way they want to get ahold of you it sounds like.

Magistrate Scherr

Well, we really try. I have something on my desk involving this. It’s a misdemeanor case from five years ago, but this guy is now living in Florida, so we’re trying to resolve things through correspondence. As far as distance we kind of peeked at that last evening when we were preparing for this presentation. We have found some people that have come in from Kalamazoo which is a couple of hours west. I do remember seeing some individuals coming from some small communities up near Traverse City which is about four hours away. So if people could do this, they would save themselves a lot of travel time and fuel and things of that nature.

It would really be helpful if people throughout the whole state would know about this, but since the whole world seems to be more geared to doing things online, you’d hope that people would at least try to find something online for the court and then maybe bump into this. I know that when we launched, in fact Natalie probably knows more about what we did to communicate the availability of this program to the general public, but I believe there was a news story we ran in the local paper, and Natalie, did we have anything involving TV news for the launch? That I don’t recall.

Natalie Stojcevska

For the launch we took a couple of steps to prepare. We initiated a press release with our local newspaper and we made the announcement of the application being available to the citizens that received citations. We also became involved and engaged with the local police department to educate all of the officers actually as to what does this program actually consist. So realizing that they’re the first contact, since they’re the ones issuing citations to the community and the citizens, they would be the initial contact and information that they can receive regarding the application that was now available online.

We went as far as also creating cards, small three by five cards, I’ll lift them up here. Every officer carries a stack of these and they’re basically an informational paragraph about online mediation. So when the citizen receives the citation, they’re also handed the card with the website that leads them to the courts online ticket mediation that you see there, it gives them their options and how to reach out and what does the online mediation mean. We found that the card was actually probably the most successful communication of the program that was available. So it wasn’t a surprise to us when the first month we launched at April 1st, we reached over a hundred online applicants for review for their citation.

Additionally, besides educating the officers on the streets, we spent significant time training the employees at the court to understand the application since it was something new and to also offer it whenever phone calls were received and requests for actual pre-hearings or informal hearings were made. We prompted our recording system if someone was calling to schedule a hearing for a citation, to let them know that we also offer online mediation as an option and briefly explained this, so by the time the phone call came through, they were already stating that they might be interested in the other alternative for convenience purposes.It did also help that all of the local channel and the community here that we had the resources to make sure that everyone knew that something new was happening here at the court and to take advantage of that opportunity.

Dunrie Greiling

That’s a great segue into our next slide. I’m going to move forward. I was about to say, Natalie, how do people get to this page?

Natalie Stojcevska

It’s easy to get to it because everyone’s kind of had this little card that there is with the citation. Otherwise, when they call our information recorded information tells them to either search the 16th District Court and they will find that application for online mediation. We also spell out the website that leads them directly to court innovation, belonging and assigned to the 16th District Court. The staff also has these cards at the counters as well when the public comes in so they are readily available, and we do provide it over the phone as well.

The information is out there. It’s easy to locate or find us either way by going directly to the court’s website or to the online mediation or courtinnovations.com/MID16.

Dunrie Greiling

Thank you Natalie. I have a couple of questions for the Magistrate. What kinds of cases go through the traffic workflow?

Magistrate Scherr

Well, it might be easier for me to tell you, answer it a little bit and then read. When we sat down initially and tried to set up parameters for this program, we had several thorough intensive discussions with court staff, a couple of the representatives from the police department who deal significantly with traffic matters, and we decided that we would allow most matters to be reviewed, but here are the things we don’t allow to be reviewed and handled through the online negotiations.

Anything involving an accident or crash as the police department likes to call it is not eligible for a review. So if there was an accident or crash involved, you cannot use the online system. Frankly we do this as a protection for people who may have been injured or received serious damage to their motor vehicles because we feel that the witnesses, if a defendant wants to dispute a matter, we feel that we would like to give a voice to the other party or parties involved in an accident. That’s why we don’t do that.

Also, anything, again, and this is things of a more serious nature, you cannot do a careless driving ticket through this system because that’s a more serious nature. Reckless driving would not qualify because that’s deemed a misdemeanor under Michigan law. Violation of the graduated license in Michigan, and this has probably been going on for at least 10, 15 years. When young drivers become eligible to drive, they have this graduated program, and there are certain restrictions these drivers have when they’re young. For example, they can only drive with a parent or guardian. They cannot have minors in the cars with them. So if a young person gets a ticket for one of those types of incidents, we don’t allow that to be handled through online negotiation either.If someone has a significant number of moving violations in the last five years, they’re not going to be eligible for this program. Basically what we mainly see are speeding tickets, disobey traffic control device, occasional stop sign, red-light violations. I believe we also disallow failed to stop for school buses. That’s another serious matter, so we don’t allow that to be handled through this online process. It’s almost every traffic citation except for those that we’ve deemed after collective discussion and deliberation are too serious to handle in this fashion. I hope that answers the question in kind of a backwards way.

Dunrie Greiling

That’s helpful.

Natalie Stojcevska

And if I may add to that, it is critical that when you begin this process, you engage all the stakeholders before you begin planning on your own. We did involve the Livonia Police Department from the get-go even when we were trying to learn what the online mediation was all about, so they were on the same page at the same time along with our judges. The decisions of establishing the criteria of what infractions are eligible and which ones are not were a collective decision and we received their feedback as to where they felt that they would not be wanting someone to have this benefit to go through the system because of the severity of the infraction. That helped all the parties to be on the same page and understand what qualifies as an eligible infraction and what does not.

We also consulted with other courts that did have this platform in place and we reviewed their eligibility requirements. But what is very nice about online mediation is that each court can design their own criteria. Matterhorn is very efficient to make any adjustments that we wanted them to make and enter codes of infractions that we wanted to keep in the system, even change language that we wanted to suit our needs. So having every stakeholders at the table during the planning stages made life easier for us to then put it into a goal and functioning program.

Dunrie Greiling

That does it. Congratulations for getting all those people to the table. I know that that’s not a simple process, but it looks like that’s-

Natalie Stojcevska

Some of the questions that I noticed pertain to how do you convince them or how do you implement it. Right from the beginning you tell them what you are not sure about or what you need to understand or learn and the feedback that you received from all the party certainly helped us along this process. So when the system was in a functioning stage, all of the participants knew what expectations are. We did not deviate from what we set up. We made some minor adjustments down the road.

As you may recall as of recent, we added another waivable citations to our platform, so when Dunrie was talking about implementing phases, it is definitely a good way to start, not necessarily slow. In our scope, we actually launched very high from the get-go because of reaching out and making the program available. But you don’t have to embrace everything at once. We just wanted to deal with the civil infractions. Now we’re accepting waivable, like no proof of insurance citations that we can have them uploaded to the platform and the Magistrate can review, and certainly as you were told earlier, we’re now addressing payable warrants via the same resolution. One step at a time is definitely probably the best way to go.

Dunrie Greiling

Yeah, you’ve set a great example there. I’m going to switch to the next slide. This is more about the process, but I’m seeing questions. A question came in about the process on the court side. I’m wondering if we can do this one a little quickly and then spend a little more time on the next slide which is on the court side process. This is how people initiate the review. We’re going to ask the Magistrate if you can share any types of things that you hear from people when they’re asking for a review of the ticket or if you had a different thing you wanted to share on this slide.

Magistrate Scherr

Well, basically they’re going to as we probably mentioned a few minutes ago go online and submit their information in the format that I’m now looking at on the screen. That’s how it starts, and frankly, I don’t hear anything because I don’t talk to any of these people. It’s all through an online process. If the citizen who received the citation wants particular factors or circumstances to be considered as to why he or she received the citation, that there’s a space for the person requesting the review to type in what their circumstances are and what their goals are and trying to get this matter resolved online.

The pre-hearing officer is the first person in the actual review process that reads that note, and based upon the person’s driving record and what the citation is all about, we’ll make a recommendation in one direction or the other.

We have had a few of these matters slip through I have to say or a person has a really not such a great driving history and we reject some of those tickets. For example, and this is not even a driving history issue, but say someone, and maybe this is a little off-topic but I think maybe it needs to be said, some of the people that are requesting these reviews are expecting things that are really out of the realm of possibility. For example, if someone was doing 100 on the freeway and the officer only wrote the ticket for say 85 or 80, we are not going to reduce something any further because in our opinion they already got a giant reduction on the side of the road when the ticket was written. So people, again, we’re not hearing things, we just read comments and we base our decision based upon the driving history, the offense itself, and if there are extenuating circumstances, then we’ll take those into account. I’m not sure I’m answering the question. Maybe I don’t quite understand what is meant by what are we hearing.

Dunrie Greiling

That’s fair enough. No, that was what I … I want to make sure we get to the next slide and there’s a question that came in in the chat. The next slide I think starts to get at that process of how it works in the court, and this is for Natalie, but I want to make sure you hear a question that was asked as you, right before you start. Patrick Finnegan has asked: Would you be willing to discuss your step by step process workflow from issuance of citation to disposition? Who is involved and at what steps?

Natalie Stojcevska

We’ll attempt to do so. As the process initiates with the citation being issued, our local police department issues electronic citations via the application that is utilized here in the state of Michigan by CLEMIS. That basically means we don’t get the paper citation. Instead, it’s an electronically submitted citation that once it’s approved by the issuing officers goes at a secondary approval point at the police department by a sergeant or an officer in charge for the day.
Once that process is satisfied on the law enforcement side, the citations are uploaded to our database at the 16th District Court or sent via an application, and at that point we actually upload them into our system which is a JIS system through the state of Michigan.


When the citation is issued to the point of the upload it’s usually sometimes a matter overnight or one or two days. Therefore, a person that receives the citation today, may not necessarily find their citation on the online mediation website immediately. It does have to populate to the court’s uploading system on JIS. Once it is in our system, then it can be paralleled and found if it is an eligible citation on the online mediation platform.


From that point on whether the person or citizen chooses to have a hearing or go by the means of online mediation, they’re given 14 days to actually take action on that citation, meaning they either can admit responsibility and pay for the citation, they can deny responsibility, or admit with an explanation. We give them 14 days from the date of the issuance of the ticket.

It is those same tickets that are applicable for online mediation. Anyone that attempts to go on the portal, to go online to mediate a citation that’s past the 14 days, their citation will not appear in the system since they passed that 14 days. The same way they would if they’d failed to contact us within 14 days, they basically become defaulted by the timelines that are established by the state.

So within those 14 days the individual can contact us to schedule a hearing or go online. If they chose to go through the online mediation, once they submit their ticket for review on the portal, it does respond to an inbox with the representative from the police department who is the first person to review the request for review by the citizen. The officer has access through online mediation to the judicial data warehouse which provides some information whether or not that individual has citation with other jurisdictions or they’ve had any other infractions recently. They also have access to the individual’s driving record before they make the determination to allow for an offer of a reduced infraction to pass it down for the Magistrate. So they make a recommendation and then ultimately the same recommendation prompts a notification to the Magistrate.

The Magistrate goes through the same process of reviewing the information received from the officer and she at that point may make the recommendation and approve it that comes from the officer or may deviate from it. The Magistrate may speak on that, but I think they have a good rapport about having an agreement most of the time as to what offer they’re making. Once an offer is decided, then the citizen receives notification by text and email of what the offer is and what reduction the offer would result in, or if there is no offer it would direct them to contact the court should they wish to schedule a hearing.

The citizen then has the option to accept or reject the offer. If they accept offer, it takes them directly to a link to the 16th District Court’s payment online link so they can actually pay that citation and have the case closed and resolved with at which point we entered the disposition.

We actually have one primary clerk that handles the disposition of these online mediation citations, so each day she actually reviews any incoming requests and any acceptances from the citizens or rejections. She is responsible to update that disposition on the JIS system. She is also responsible to notify the citizen of any communication is to follow differently, and obviously the court notifies them if it is necessary. In the instances that an offer is not to their satisfaction, the citizen has the option to reject that offer, and at that point they still have an option to schedule an informal hearing whereby we would be scheduling the officer that issued the citation for an actual hearing in front of the Magistrate.

Hopefully this answers the question. If we are talking about timeliness from the start point when we receive a request for a review to the conclusion, our court has been able to clear and make an offer or recommendation to the citizen on what they’re willing to do within 2.2 days. We are very prompt and timely on getting the answer or response to the citizen so they’re not waiting forever in anticipation what is the court doing with my request.

Dunrie Greiling

Natalie that was a great segue to our next slide. You ready?

Natalie Stojcevska

That brings us to the statistics for the court. As we mentioned previously, we launched the online mediation application April 1st of 2016, and as you can see thus far we have resolved successfully 4,913 citations, which is approximately 152 online citations per month, meaning 152 hearings are not being held here at the 16th District Court. They’re done virtually without having the flow of extra traffic, parking, and defendants leaving their work or their obligations to resolve their ticket.

During the course since we started the process, you can pretty much see that we are still in an increase. We’re going strong. Primarily we haven’t changed the ingredients or the recipe of how we make the availability of the application known, as well as the fairness of it, so I’m hopeful we keep the trend that you see there which is definitely on a good slope.

Dunrie Greiling

Absolutely. You guys are doing a great job. All right. That was starting to get to outcomes in terms of the number of hearings avoided, but we’re going to dig a little deeper into what the court has achieved.

I’d like to start by sort of asking. We hear a lot about how online dispute resolution changes or increases access for the public. It’s letting people come to court without going to court. Does it affect the work of the court as well?

Magistrate Scherr

I guess I’ll chime in a little bit on that. Again, this is, goes back to something I may have said at the beginning of my discussion. It allows people to resolve these matters quickly without having to take time out of their work life, if they do work, their family life, and also we on our criminal cases unfortunately we have people that have young children that have no daycare apparently because we’re seeing unfortunately an increase of young kids being brought to the courthouse. This allows people to resolve matters without having to bring their children with them or trying to get babysitters or daycare, or if they care for elderly adults, they don’t have to worry about that as well.

There are a lot of benefits to somebody just being at home or in a convenience space handling a matter without physically having to come here during set hours. Those are just some of the things that I think are very helpful because we don’t have night hours here. We’re basically an 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. operation, and people that need to come to court because they have mandatory matters often have to take time out of their work life and home life to get here. I think that might be one of the reasons why we have a lot of bench warrants because people may want to resolve things, but they really can’t get here because of their restrictions in their world.

As we all probably have in the court system are sometimes dealing with people that are living paycheck to paycheck that really can’t miss work. I hear this when I’m sentencing people sometimes on driving on suspended and things of that nature, that they don’t have the money. They only drove because they had to go to a job. I’d like to think most of the information they’re providing is truthful, and usually it is, but there are a lot of people in Metro Detroit, and I’m sure this is true in a lot of communities across the country and in the world, that really have to divide up their time every minute of the day for something.

And to be here in person, I’ve thought about this as well. If you come here in person and do a pre-hearing, you might be here unfortunately two hours because by the time you check in, go through security, sit in a waiting room, talk to the pre-hearing officer, come to the courtroom, we dispose of it, then you have to go back to the front counter to make payment, that could be a two-hour process. So if you could do something in maybe 15 minutes online or 10 minutes, I don’t know how long it would take somebody to get through the online because I’ve never looked at it from the citizen’s standpoint, but I can’t imagine it would take any more than 10 minutes to get through it. Dunrie, you could probably answer that better than I could. But when you compare that amount of time spent versus saved it’s very attractive to the public, so it’s very customer service oriented.

Dunrie Greiling

Absolutely.

Magistrate Scherr

Natalie, do you have any more thoughts on those issues?

Natalie Stojcevska

I think pretty much you covered it Barb, it just talks about what courts need to focus on, on hardships or challenges that the public has in order to address their matters that come to court or by online means.

Additionally, we like to make sure that everyone that we do see online is getting the fair opportunity that they would if they came in person. We actually have the same officers that hold the pre-hearings, the same Magistrate that holds an actual hearing in the courtroom looking at their requests online. Therefore, we don’t deviate from what we would typically do in the courtroom in any manner if the request is done online.

Our clerical staff that answers the phones is very versed in explaining that there is absolutely no difference between those two since we utilize the same individuals, the same process, the same tools to make a decision whether or not a particular offer can be made for a citizen that’s seeking relief.

Dunrie Greiling

Yeah, that’s really helpful context. Thank you Natalie. I’m going to hand it back to Natalie to just talk about who is using or what people who are using the system are saying about access.

Natalie Stojcevska

With regards to the use and access as you can see approximately 32.9% of the population on the survey indicated that they would have the ability to appear in court, and 67.1 that we reach out to … I apologize, they’re able to appear in court 67.1, the other way around, and 32.9 are unable to appear in court. We’re reaching a population with this type of technology tool that may not necessarily be able to come to court and still be able to resolve their matters.

With regards to the technology they’re using or how did they go online, it seems that the mobile devices are the predominant means of how they go on and request their hearing. This is the same application they would use even to follow through to accept or reject an offer or make a payment, followed closely by 41.8% of citizens that use the desktop or a tablet a smaller percentage. The mobile device is definitely the most widely used for a lot of purposes, including online mediation.

Dunrie Greiling

Yeah, that’s really dramatic. This is from the … I’ll do this one. This is from the web analytics of how people are coming to the site. This is people coming to the public side, citizen side. You can see people from all over Michigan, as the Magistrate mentioned up in Traverse City and, or in the Detroit area and all the way up in the UP, and then there’s interest people dropping onto the site from all over the US as well. So it’s available around the clock to anyone no matter where they are located.

Getting on to efficiencies, I think the Magistrate and Natalie have shared some of the efficiencies already, but this is a big benefit of going with an online system, so I’ll ask Natalie to share a little bit more about that.

Natalie Stojcevska

Sure. With online mediation we actually can clear a citation from its request for review within 2.2 days. With regards to pre-hearing though if one is requested or any type of hearing, whether it’s informal or a formal hearing, we currently schedule two weeks out. So we’re already definitely on the timeliness ahead of the game with online mediation resolution. So a citizen, the context is to schedule the hearing here at the court, we usually schedule the hearings within two weeks versus if they went on their mobile device and requested to have their ticket reviewed online, solve it within 2.2 days, so it significantly impacts our clearance rates.

We are clearing traffic tickets at a 100 percentile predominantly because we are handling them online, a lot of them, so it does bring our customer satisfaction, as well as the access to the timeliness with the state at actually a level. So it certainly helps your productivity, your timeliness, and closing the cases timely through getting them to a disposition.

Dunrie Greiling

Congratulations. That 2.2 days is pretty fast. Well done.

Natalie Stojcevska

Thank you.

Dunrie Greiling

Like Natalie mentioned that their customer satisfaction surveys issued at the end of the process, and this looks the same actually, it looks like we’ve just accidentally duplicated the graph, but people, the numbers are slightly different, the base numbers, so I promise you this is not a typo. People are really, very strongly agreeing with the statement that their case was resolved in a timely manner, 96.4%, and then they agree that it was easy to use. So like the Magistrate mentioned, it is very efficient for them both in time to complete in calendar days and time to complete maybe on the application online rather than this maybe two hours it would take in court and the time that it might take transportation and organizing their lives. This is a customer service benefit as well that you can see in the responses that people have afterwards.

Getting to customer satisfaction. I’ve heard that you don’t hear much about this because you’re dealing with these folks mainly through the system. Do you have anything that you want to share that you’ve …

Natalie Stojcevska

What we found very interesting was that actually I did not know that you do conduct a survey when a citizen does go through your platform. A couple months ago it was nice of you to share what those surveys were talking about or stating about our court. So I was pleased to see the comments that surprisingly most of the citizens that went online actually made comments as to what their experience was like. I captured a couple them that one of them stated.

“I think it was an excellent way to dispute a ticket.”

“The process made my life easier, hassle-free”

“Great idea. Well executed.”

Obviously there were some comments.

“If only the fine could have been waived, this would have been the perfect deal.”

No, this is not the scenario, but at least it seemed that most of the citizens that utilized this application gave us the feedback that our website was easily … They could find the online mediation tab to reach us that having the officer hand the card with the website and information of the availability of the platform was the first thing that they actually kept with the ticket to make the intention and go on the website.

Some heard from other individuals that there is online ticket mediation at the court, so they looked it up in that manner. A lot of students we noticed utilized this application and certainly came with their technology times that they felt that the courts were actually finally kind of reaching out to different tools to make the application available, to make life easier is if you will. They also liked the component where they could actually make comments to the officer and the Magistrate or make a statement if they wanted to. The application allows for that. Certainly they can list what their circumstances were pertaining to the ticket, so they felt that they were heard, although they were not in front of the Magistrate or the officer in person.

It was surprising to see that many took the time, and I think that was greatly appreciated and gave us a little bit more of assurance that we are doing the right thing, not just resolving cases fast, but resolving them fairly. The public is satisfied with their outcome given their circumstances. Even if at times the offers were not to their liking, they actually acknowledged that based on what their citations were for, they understood why they didn’t get a zero point reduction, instead, they received say at one point reduction instead. It was good to actually take a minute to review those statistics which were made available to us from your office.

Dunrie Greiling

Yeah, those are fun, those are a fun read.

I want to make sure, we’ve just got a couple more minutes of your time. We want to end sharp at 3:00. We did see one question come through in the chat. Now would be a great time if you’ve got a question you’d like to ask our Magistrate or Natalie, please jump on and type your question in, and we will …We just have two more slides, but we would love to turn to your questions if there are any open questions that you have. So please, don’t be shy. Just click on that Q&A link and type in a question and we’ll be sure to answer it for you.

While we wait for any questions to pop in, I just wanted to share a little bit more from that satisfaction survey. Natalie had shared some of the sort of pros, paragraphs people had written or short sentences they’d written, and then these are some of their numerical scores that we’ve already talked about a couple times and people would strongly recommend and they also shared that they understood the status of their case.

Then I’m handing this back to Natalie. I haven’t for … These are some of the types of descriptions or comments people write.

Natalie Stojcevska

As you can see, it resonates the same difficulties that they would’ve had if they didn’t have this option available to them. A lot of it has to do with missed time from work, from school, being able to have their matter resolved timely without having to stress about it ongoing. These comments certainly resonate exactly what this program was designed to do, and I think with regards to just the overall project itself, if you embrace it from the perspective of the citizen, as well as the legal aspect, it could work for you, so long as you plan it accordingly and you give it fairness and opportunity.

Again, start with the small steps first. The internals are definitely necessary of educating the staff of what this program is about, so that we’re able to pass down the information to the citizens as they inquire about it. Most of them are as you say thanking us for having the opportunity to have such technology available in the courts and being able to utilize it easily.

Dunrie Greiling

We’ve got one question, and this is a question, I’m not sure if it’s for Natalie or for the Magistrate, so I’ll send it up to both of you. You can let me know who wants to reply.

Do you ever offer any alternative methods? Are there ever any alternative methods given, i.e., community service as opposed to a reduced fine?

Magistrate Scherr

Not for these types of offenses.

Dunrie Greiling

Okay.

Natalie Stojcevska

Correct. Alternatives such as community services are used by the court, but it is usually in matters of probation violations, in matters of inability to pay or indigency issues. Those we do process after we have ability to pay hearings and determine that there are indigent so. There are alternatives but not for civil infractions.

Dunrie Greiling

Thank you.

Natalie Stojcevska

We do offer payment plans though for civil infractions, but that’s a different platform altogether.

Dunrie Greiling

By my watch it’s like 2:59 and 37 seconds, so I think we’ve just got a couple moments left. The Magistrate and Natalie have graciously made themselves available for questions afterwards, so feel free to contact them. Feel free to contact us with any questions you have. Like we mentioned earlier, the recording of the webinar will be available on our website. We’ll send you … Zoom will send you that link afterwards.

I want to heartily thank Natalie and Magistrate Scherr for your time this afternoon. I know it’s super valuable for people who are looking at evaluating their own projects to hear about the process that you took and the success that you’ve had to date, and so it’s wonderful you took the time to share. Thank you so much.

Natalie Stojcevska

Thank you for having us.

Magistrate Scherr

Very much. Have a good holiday season everyone.

Dunrie Greiling

Yes, absolutely. Enjoy, have the rest … Enjoy the rest of your afternoon or evening or morning, wherever you are. Thank you so much. Bye-bye.

Magistrate Scherr

Bye-bye.

Natalie Stojcevska

Bye-bye.

Learn More

Recommended Resources for Court Connected Online Dispute Resolution 

  • JTC Resource Bulletin – Case Studies in ODR for Courts: A View from the Front Lines. This report covers Franklin County Municipal Court’s platform. Open the PDF.
  • JTC Resource Bulletin – ODR for Courts v. 2. Open the PDF.
  • See all JTC Resource publications on the NCSC website
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