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U of Michigan law professor’s start-up lets you resolve smaller court cases online


By David Schwartz
Published: September 14th, 2016

A professor from the University of Michigan (U-M) Law School has launched a start-up that uses an online platform to resolve smaller legal matters without going to court.

J.J. Prescott was inspired to develop the system after he went to court with a traffic ticket and ended up waiting four hours to have a brief, informal meeting. “Imagine if I lived in a rural area where the courthouse was two hours away,” says Prescott. “And as a result, I had to miss an entire day of work to go to court, which, if I were paid by the hour, would equate to $100 or more in lost wages. All of that aggravation, all to come over to have that conversation.”

Prescott says he couldn’t stand to see our courts operating the same way 50 years from now, so he’s doing something to change it. With the help of former student Ben Gubernick, Prescott developed the platform Matterhorn to take care of small cases such as civil infractions, minor warrants, misdemeanors — and yes, traffic tickets. Users send in their side of the story and other information, answer a few questions, and eventually hear from a decision-maker.

According to Prescott, at least half of court cases are minor enough that they could be resolved online. “It can happen the way you request an increase in the credit limit on your credit card — at 11 pm from your couch,” he says. The platform also removes barriers caused by poverty, disability and personal obligation, and avoids the intimidation people feel in courthouses.

The U-M Office of Technology Transfer helped Prescott launch the startup Court Innovations, Inc. Matterhorn is now being used in 15 Michigan district courts, and the start-up is in talks with other states. Bob Ciolek, administrator at the Michigan’s 14A district court, says the technology is a major advantage to everyone, from citizens to police officers to magistrates. With help from Matterhorn, district 14A has drastically reduced staff time spent on cases, boosted revenue collection, and shrunk the number of appeals.

“That is [fewer] dockets that the magistrate has to hear, which is good because it frees her up to do other things,” says Ciolek.

Source: Legal Rebels

Posted under: Tech Transfer e-News

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