Mark Di Vincenzo
National Center for State Courts
NCSC’s evaluation shows potential for Utah’s ODR project
Williamsburg, Va., Dec. 10, 2020 — Online retailers use online dispute resolution (ODR) to settle more than 60 million disputes a year, with 90 percent of disputes resolved without a mediator or judge.
If it works for eBay, Amazon and Walmart, why not the courts? Court leaders have been saying this for years, with Utah leading the charge. Now the National Center for State Courts has completed an evaluation of Utah’s two-year-old pilot project. Here are a few of the findings:
- The project led to fewer in-person hearings for cases that weren’t resolved online.
- The average time to disposition decreased by five weeks for most cases.
- Litigants often signed on to use the system outside regular court hours, evidence that they enjoyed its flexibility and convenience.
NCSC views ODR as just one technological advancement that courts must embrace to better provide access to justice for millions of people who can’t afford lawyers and are not well served by the courts.
Utah Supreme Court Justice Deno Himonas, an advocate of ODR, has said the justice gap is wide, and it continues to grow. “It’s time to bridge the gap,” Himonas said at a recent conference. “Deliver new services. There is no cure all, in my opinion. What it’s going to take is the building of a new legal ecosystem.”
The National Center for State Courts, headquartered in Williamsburg, Va., is a nonprofit court organization dedicated to improving the administration of justice by providing leadership and service to the state courts. Founded in 1971 by the Conference of Chief Justices and Chief Justice of the United States Warren E. Burger, NCSC provides education, training, technology, management, and research services to the nation’s state courts.