In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, state courts accelerated efforts to implement online dispute resolution (ODR) programs that offer litigants a software platform in which to resolve legal problems, including negotiating settlements or exchanging information in preparation for in-court hearings. ODR programs are intended to increase access to justice, especially for self-represented litigants, through increased convenience, case processing efficiency, and awareness of litigant options, while decreasing costs. With SJI support, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) has issued a new report describing a framework for program evaluation, as well as ongoing performance measures for ODR programs. The framework employs a “balanced scorecard” approach to ensure that evaluation and performance measures take into account perspectives of important stakeholders, including courts, litigants, access-to-justice advocates, and funders of ODR programs. All of the measures address the same underlying primary question: to what extent does the ODR program improve access to justice? The report is available here. The NCSC project team is also available to provide technical assistance to courts implementing new ODR programs.
Given the rapid advancement of technology solutions such as ODR, litigant portals, and artificial intelligence, SJI has committed to not only provide seed funding for these efforts, but also play a critical leadership role. SJI is promoting the development and implementation of these technologies, and working with key stakeholders both nationally and internationally to adapt proven technology platforms in the state courts. These developments will fundamentally change the way individuals interact with the courts, in addition to further streamlining court operations.