The emergence of COVID-19 has had widespread effects throughout the court system and quarantine orders slowed operations. The Supreme Court of Ohio anticipated an influx of evictions and foreclosure filings in Ohio’s trial courts, as well as a backlog of civil cases. Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor directed the Office of Court Services to convene stakeholders to analyze projected caseloads, create strategies for backlogs, and modernize court operations through technology. The Evictions Report and Recommendations and Foreclosures and Civil Justice Report were developed, both recommending the use of online dispute resolution (ODR). Subsequently, through a grant from the State Justice Institute, ODR was expanded in Ohio.
OH-Resolve, a vendor hosted ODR for 15 pilot sites, is a court-monitored messaging system designed to help parties resolve evictions, small claims, foreclosures, and family law cases. ODR increases access to justice for self-represented litigants and is a convenient way for litigants to resolve disputes from a computer or smartphone.
Tools were developed to assist courts with implementation on the Supreme Court’s webpage. FAQs for Courts, FAQs for Public, court user instructions, a legal glossary, the ODR Toolkit and instructional videos were created to help guide parties and the courts through the ODR process.
As Ohio continues to explore ODR best practices in different types of cases, it will be an ongoing opportunity to provide courts with another method to resolve legal issues while providing citizens of the State of Ohio an additional way to access the court system by utilizing technology.