Measuring “Access to Justice” in the Rush to Digitize

By Amy J. Schmitz

Access to Justice (A2J) is the hot topic of the day, energizing Twitter and judges alike. Meanwhile, professors and policymakers join in song, singing the praises of online dispute resolution (ODR) as means for expanding A2J. This is because ODR uses technology to allow for online claim diagnosis, negotiation, and mediation without the time, money, and stress of traditional court processes. Indeed, courts are now moving traffic ticket, condominium, landlord/tenant, personal injury, debt collection, and even divorce claims online. The hope is that online triage and dispute resolution systems will provide means for obtaining remedies for self-represented litigants (SRLs) and those who cannot otherwise afford traditional litigation. Nonetheless, there is danger that the rush to digitization will ignore due process and transparency in the name of efficiency. Accordingly, research is underway to “test” ODR programs to determine whether they are in fact advancing A2J. This raises the question of what justice is and leads to further questions regarding how we should assess these ODR programs. This Article addresses these inquiries and aims to delineate variables and questions that should be considered as we examine ODR’s successes and failures in advancing justice.