Imagine: You’re late for work and going 10 miles-per-hour over the speed limit to try to shave a few minutes off your commute, when you’re pulled over. The police officer gives you a ticket, but it’s more expensive than you anticipated. You want to take care of the matter quickly, though, before the late fees start piling up, so you e-mail the judge listed on the back of the ticket and set up a payment plan.
And just like that, the matter is taken care of—without the need to appear in court or spend 20 minutes on hold trying to get through to a clerk. This is the future as imagined by Court Innovations, a startup spun out of the University of Michigan’s law school.
“The whole premise is increased access to justice, especially for high-volume transactions,” says MJ Cartwright, Court Innovations’ CEO.
The technology was invented by J.J. Prescott, a professor at the law school, and Ben Gubernick, his former student. Their goal was to eliminate the need to physically show up to court, saving people time, money, and the frustration of dealing with a confusing, intimidating bureaucracy. Court Innovations officially launched in January, and there are six full-time employees plus a handful of interns currently running the company.
Cartwright says the Court Innovations software allows people to handle a range of minor civil infractions and communicate directly with judges over e-mail. Users can go to the Court Innovations website, enter their information, check for eligibility, and request a negotiated resolution. Eligible infractions include minor traffic violations, failure to appear, and failure to pay fines or court costs.