Supporting the Nation's Judicial System & the Public it Serves

Emergency Response and Recovery

Courts must be prepared for natural disasters and public health emergencies, such as pandemics.  SJI supports projects that look to the future of judicial service delivery by identifying and replicating innovations and alternate means of conducting court business because of pandemics and natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires.

Convert Court-led Live and In-person Training to On-demand

The Arizona Superior Court in Pima County will transition employee-led, facilitated, in-person classroom courses to on-demand, online, and self-paced training.  Starting first with the Court’s Family Center of the Conciliation Court (FCCC), the court will design, launch, evaluate and document the process and program effectiveness for transitioning FCCC’s mandated Parent Education courses from in-person trainings to an on-demand, virtual platform.  On-demand, self-paced, court-originated parent education classes will increase enrollment by enabling parents the option to complete coursework as their schedule permits.  By embedding on-demand parenting classes under the authority of the Court, judicial officers will have the ability to waive mandated class fees for those facing financial challenges.

How a Court Leadership Evaluates and Institutionalizes the Best Practices Initiated During a Crisis

Out of necessity, the King County, Washington, Superior Court has made many changes to its practices, procedures, and service delivery as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Every area of the court, and all judicial officers and court employees, have been affected.  Some of the new, innovative practices are likely worthy of continuing in the future (post-pandemic); some may warrant continuing in the future but with refinements; others may not warrant continuing post pandemic but were innovative and served the court and court users well during the crisis; and some may not warrant continuing post-pandemic because they were, or are, not effective.  This project will enable court leadership to:

  • Develop methodologies and an evaluation framework to systematically choose and evaluate several new, promising practices implemented as a result of the pandemic; and
  • Make values-based, data-informed decisions about practices that should be continued (or not continued) post-pandemic.

Evaluation of Two Statewide Virtual Mediation Services Administered through Local Dispute Resolution Centers and E-Learning Faculty Development Model

The Michigan Supreme Court and State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) will evaluate two statewide virtual mediation services administered through local dispute resolution centers; and develop, pilot, and institutionalize an e-Learning Faculty Development Model.

The SCAO/Office of Dispute Resolution (ODR) provides two statewide virtual mediation programs, which are administered through Local Dispute Resolution Centers.  The services include: 1) the MI-Resolve online platform; and 2) online Zoom mediation.  Both programs manage court referrals of small claims, landlord/tenant (including eviction), and general civil cases, and are administered through a statewide network of 17 Community Dispute Resolution Program (CDRP) centers.  The evaluation will empirically demonstrate the effectiveness and national replicability of these two mediation programs. 

The project will also enable the Michigan Judicial Institute (MJI) to identify court personnel to serve as volunteer faculty for peer judicial education sessions delivered through virtual platforms.  The “train-the-trainer” curriculum will be structured as a virtual workshop, and introduce the core components of active learning using interactive lectures.  This will include model learner engagement activities, and teaching workshop participants on how to use virtual conference platform tools to create their own virtual sessions.

Online Traffic and Misdemeanor Cases Pilot

The Municipal and Traffic Courts of New Orleans will be the demonstration site in Louisiana for the implementation of an online traffic and misdemeanor cases.  With the assistance of the Justice Management Institute (JMI), the Court will:

  • Develop procedures that address, case initiation, assignment, calendaring and noticing, appointment of attorneys, plea negotiation, hearings, orders, and judgments;
  • Conduct a gap analysis and detailed technical specifications to build new tools for online case processing and virtual hearings as modules of the existing case management system; and
  • Write locally customized technical specifications for defendant portals and Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) for traffic and misdemeanor cases.

Eviction Data Analysis and Accessibility

The Eviction Settlement Program (ESP) was created in June 2020 as a partnership between the City of Memphis, Tennessee, Shelby County, the Shelby County General Sessions Court Clerk, Neighborhood Preservations, Inc., Memphis Area Legal Services, the University of Memphis School of Law’s Legal Clinic, among other local partners, to provide settlement funds and pro-bono legal representation to housing insecure tenants during the pandemic.  NPI will improve court data management and accessibility to assist the Shelby County Courts, Memphis-area attorneys, litigants, and social service providers in navigating eviction proceedings during and beyond the pandemic.  External data collection and analysis will support the courts and its legal partners in implementing and charting the impacts of the ESP.  Through data sharing and systems-level analyses, the project will assist court staff, judges, pro-bono attorneys, and housing-insecure tenants in preparing for virtual proceedings, determining CARES Act eligibility of litigants, and examining the replicability of the ESP for post-pandemic court operations. NPI will:

  • Develop an easy-access, interactive database that provides hearing information for litigants, and flags for the courts any properties awaiting proceedings that are protected from eviction under the CARES Act;
  • Conduct an efficiency study of the current eviction case filing, hearing processes, and court operations in Shelby County; and
  • Conduct an evaluation and cost-analysis of the ESP. 

The database will make it possible to more quickly access information about upcoming cases and triage which tenants need immediate representation.  The virtual platform created by this project will be available in perpetuity – a valuable asset for post-pandemic court operations.  The evaluation of ESP, as well as the efficiency study of eviction proceedings in Shelby County courts, will provide critical insights on how the courts may proceed with both pro-bono legal representation and eviction court proceedings following the pandemic.

Improving Remote Access: Emergency Petition Email-Filing System Project

The Puerto Rico Office of Courts Administration will improve remote access through remote email-filing and videoconferencing for emergency petitions.  Residents with access to a computer, tablet, or a smart phone will be able to:

  • Request a restraining order under the Domestic Abuse Prevention Act and the Protection of Victims of Sexual Violence in Puerto Rico Act;
  • Request to relocate minors outside of the jurisdiction and other urgent matters regarding family and juvenile affairs; and
  • Request involuntary admission orders under the mental health code. 

The Judicial Branch will develop case management interface features for the web-based application, including:

  • A secure login feature to protect the petitioner’s personal information and index in one file all email linked to the petitioner;
  • The record and classification of the petitioner’s information to develop statistical reports;
  • A notification function for courts to quickly know a new petition has been filed; and
  • Integration of the email-filing system with the Judicial Branch webpage.  The project will include the development of three videoclips (Spanish, English and sign-language) and a web tutorial. 

Ohio Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) Pilot Project

Currently, the Supreme Court of Ohio is piloting an ODR project focused on mediating foreclosure and eviction matters, and is seeking to expand to other case types.  This will assist with the backlog of cases that has occurred due to the pandemic, Supreme Court orders and state legislation impacting court cases during the pandemic, and the CARES Act.  In addition to evictions and foreclosures, local courts will focus on other case types, including small claims, contracts, and family matters.  This project will support at least four ODR pilots and an evaluation component.

The project will include delivery of sustainable, educational products for sustainability, and continued expansion by sharing best practices statewide.  Most importantly, additional ODR platforms in more case types will better serve self-represented litigants in resolving their cases remotely.