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Pilot program brings small claims court to your computer

By Felicia Martinez, KSL TV | Posted - Oct. 25, 2018 at 7:00 p.m.



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WEST VALLEY CITY — The Utah State Court system is making the process more convenient by allowing the public to take care of small claims on their laptops or smartphones.

The new technology is called the Online Dispute Resolution system, or ODR, which is part of a pilot program within the West Valley City Justice Court. It started in September and is anticipated to go on for six months before expanding to other courts in the state.

The innovative technology is among the first in the nation to be tested in the court system.

According to Utah State Courts, the ODR has the potential to revolutionize the way the public can access justice. The catch is it has to be a small claims matter, which means a civil claim less than $11,000.

ODR allows defendants to negotiate a settlement with petitioners via chat, allowing them to exchange documents. If needed, a court facilitator can jump in to assist in finalizing a settlement or prepare the case for trial.

Each participant, the defendant or petitioner has the option of opting out if they don’t have access to the internet or technology, and each case will be reviewed.

Judge Brendan McCullagh said with technology at everyone’s fingertips, it only makes sense for the court system to adapt as well.

“Getting to court may not be possible or convenient for most people, so we wanted to try and harness that advantage to it,” McCullagh said. “So we thought that small claims was the place and that maybe we could increase the participation rate (and) increase people’s preparedness.”

He noted that if people did have to come to a trial, the program would help people know what to bring and the things that are relevant to their cases.

“As opposed to us judges having to pull it out of them and maybe people not being prepared,” McCullagh said.

With the program, citizens will still be summoned by a constable. However, the paperwork they receive will instruct them to go online for the ODR system.

Felicia Martinez

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