Document Type

Book Chapter

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Technological advancements are improving how courts operate by changing the way they handle proceedings and interact with litigants. Court Innovations is a socially minded software startup that enables citizens, law enforcement, and courts to resolve legal matters through Matterhorn, an online communication and dispute resolution platform. Matterhorn was conceived at the University of Michigan Law School and successfully piloted in two Michigan district courts beginning in 2014. The platform now operates in over 40 courts and in at least eight states, and it has facilitated the resolution of more than 40,000 cases to date. These numbers will continue to grow as new categories of disputes and other legal matters become eligible for online management and resolution and as more court systems recognize the economic and social benefits of adopting online platform technology. This case study chronicles the development, implementation, and refinement of Matterhorn. Implementing software in the legal world can be cumbersome, especially when adoption requires the coordination and agreement of multiple public entities with overlapping – but not identical – goals. We hope that by sharing the story of Matterhorn’s creation and growth over the last few years, we can light the way for the next generation of court-focused technology and e-governance tools, especially those that relate to the criminal justice system. We also hope to offer valuable lessons for transitioning ideas for progress into realized change. First, we outline the social problem that Matterhorn was initially designed to address – minor warrants – and how that focus led to Matterhorn’s now-broader aim of improving court access generally. Second, we describe Matterhorn and how it works in practical terms. Third, we present an analysis of the platform’s underlying design philosophy and objectives. Fourth, we address two challenges that Court Innovations encountered and overcame in implementing Matterhorn in a variety of courts with diverse stakeholders. We conclude that Matterhorn has demonstrated the value of using online platform technology to resolve disputes in courts and has succeeded in producing measurable improvements in court accessibility and efficiency