Court-related Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) is a public facing digital space in which parties can convene to resolve their dispute or case.
Three essential components differentiate court-related ODR from other forms of technology-supported dispute resolution:
- The first is that the program operates exclusively online. In contrast to other court programs that provide an online interface with which to accomplish discrete tasks (e.g., e-filing, video hearings), ODR users do not otherwise interact with the court for traditional in-court procedures or events.
- The second is that the program is explicitly designed to assist litigants in resolving their dispute or case, rather than a technology platform to support judicial or court staff decision-making. Dispute resolution inherently includes the potential to challenge the validity of claims or to raise affirmative defenses; court-related ODR is not merely a platform for defendants to negotiate a payment schedule to satisfy debts.
- Third, the program is hosted or supported by the judicial branch. It is not a form of private ADR, but instead integrates and extends dispute resolution services offered by the judicial branch into digital space to serve citizens efficiently, effectively, transparently, and fairly.
This definition of court-related ODR can encompass a variety of methods and tools to assist in dispute resolution. It can provide dispute resolution services without necessarily filing a formal complaint. It can support a variety of decision-making aids including discovery exchange; direct party-to-party settlement negotiations; synchronous or asynchronous mediation support; and technology-supported adjudication. When litigants successfully resolve their dispute, the program can populate standard settlement agreement forms that can be automatically filed with the court, if needed to dispose the case. If the litigants are unsuccessful, the program can also provide a seamless entry to the court’s traditional dispute resolution by automatically populating and filing necessary court forms. The design and implementation of court-related ODR programs should not diminish due process or access to justice for program users.
Eight Lessons to Consider for ODR Implementation
- Syllabus, Readings, and Video: Santa Clara University School of Law, "Online Dispute Resolution: The State of the Art". This seminar examines the development of ODR, think through some of the new challenges it poses to neutrals and systems designers, and look at all the major providers, administrative agencies, and international organizations currently involved.
- At eCourts 2018 and CTC 2019, judges conducted a presentation to discuss their experiences working in jurisdictions where ODR is in use. This discussion provided an overview of how ODR impacts access, timelines, case quality, and other justice measures.
- SXSW 2019-Adopting Online Courts in Utah's Legal System. This is a recording of a panel discussion between Pew, the NCSC, and Utah's Supreme Court and Administrative Office of the Court regarding ODR in Utah's Legal System. SXSW 2019: Utah, "Pajama Court" and Resolving Cases Online is a government technology article summarizing the panel discussion.
- The JTC Quick Response Bulletin, Judicial Perspectives on ODR and Other Virtual Court Processes is a report in response to the abrupt changes courts had to make to faciliate court processes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual hearings and ODR are opening up new possibilities that are not only keeping courts functioning during the pandemic, but also showing promise in helping resolve seemingly intractable access to justice issues.
- ODR & COVID-19: Guest post from Prof. Stacy Butler (Arizona Law)
- Using Zoom to Conduct Online Mediation: Considerations and Resources for Community Dispute Resolution Program Centers is an April 2020 report from the Michigan Supreme Court's State Court Administrative Office, Office of Dispute Resolution.
- University of Missouri School of Law Open Education Resources Dispute Resolution in the Digital Age - Online Dispute Resolution. (2018). These resources were created by Professor Amy J. Schmitz to teach online dispute resolution. The resources are diverse in scope. Topic examples include ODR Governance, ODR in the Courts, Family Law ODR, and ODR in Developing Nations.
- Measuring the Impact of Access to Justice Programs: An Assessment Tool for Funders & Policymakers proposes more of an "engineering" approach by introducing an analytical tool for ornganizations workign to break access barriers to estimate the potential impact of proposed solutions.
- Utah Online Dispute Resolution Steering Committee Utah Online Dispute Resolution Pilot Project. (2017). This pilot project, funded by SJI, is being developed by the Utah AOC to allow self-represented litigants access to justice through a computer or mobile device. The system that was conceptualized by the ODR Steering Committee will assist users in filing documents, defending claims, communicating with other parties, learning about processes, and participating in their small claims cases.
- The Bold Measures in ODR blog was established in conjunction with the International ODR Forum held in Williamsburg, Va. in October 2019. Contributors explore a variety of subjects related to online dispute resolution.
- JTC Resource Bulletin ODR for Courts. (2017). This Resource Bulletin from the Joint Technology Committee provides a basic primer in ODR and describes several implementation models, as well as court-specific opportunities and considerations.