Utah online dispute resolution system
Released: September 2018
Utah's online dispute resolution (ODR) system is a web-based tool available to litigants who have small claims disputes that involve USD 11,000 or less.
Released in 2018, Utah's ODR system was designed to provide 'simple, quick, inexpensive and easily accessible justice' that includes 'individualized assistance and information that is accessible across a multitude of electronic platforms.'
A 2020 evaluation of Utah's ODR platform usability by the Innovation for Justice program at the University of Arizona concluded it has major design problems, with most users reporting 'frustration on account of their inability to easily find information about ODR, including guidance about how it worked, whether participation was mandatory, and how to contact someone for more assistance.'
According to report, statistics show that only about 36% of defendants in small claims cases actually log into the system, and those that do frequently require technical support. At the same time, the researchers found that participants in the study were receptive to the idea of an online platform for handling small claims cases.
The authors recommended that Utah streamline its registration process, make document sharing easier, and provide more guidance to users trying to navigate the system in order to make the ODR program more accessible to Utahans facing small claims suits.
Payday lenders benefit
In March 2022, an investigation by The Mark-up concluded that Utah's ODR benefits large payday lenders instead of making the courts more accessible to low-income litigants - the people it was meant to help - with default judgments (court rulings in favour of one party because the other failed to respond) increasing under the system.
Worse, the investigation found that 'the move to online dispute resolution has had severe consequences for many of the Utahans it was supposed to help and that the state’s courts have been slow to implement potential fixes.'
Operator: West Valley City Justice Court; Orem City Justice Court
Developer: Utah Administrative Office of the Courts
Sector: Govt - justice
Purpose: Resolve disputes
Transparency: Governance; Black box; Marketing
RAND (2021). Online Dispute Resolution. Perspectives to Support Successful Implementation and Outcomes in Court Proceedings
Dardanes J. (2021). When Accessing Justice Requires Absence from the Courthouse: Utah’s Online Dispute Resolution Program and the Impact it Will Have on Pro Se Litigants
Pew Trusts (2021). How Courts Embraced Technology, Met the Pandemic Challenge, and Revolutionized Their Operations
Deno Himonas (2018). Utah’s Online Dispute Resolution Program
Investigations, assessments, audits
The Markup (2022). Payday Lenders Are Big Winners in Utah’s Chatroom Justice Program
The MarkUp (2022). Can Chatrooms Replace Coutrooms?
The Markup (2022) Utah ODR data and methodology
Innovation for Justice, University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law (2020). The Utah Online Dispute Resolution Platform: A Usability Evaluation and Report (pdf)
NCSC (2020). Impact of the Utah Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) Pilot Progam - Final Report (pdf)
News, commentary, analysis
Published: February 2023