Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 21

FEATURE
percentage of housing in the Vancouver metropolitan area.) It has
expanded dramatically since.
In the beginning, there weren't useful examples of other online courts on
which to model the program, says Shannon Salter, chair of the CRT and an
adjunct professor at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of
British Columbia.
"We tried as much as possible to make evidence-based decisions about
how it should work, and what we found was there just wasn't a lot of
evidence about how an online justice system works at all," Salter says
in an interview with Washington Lawyer.

People living in condominiums share ownership of buildings with
hundreds of other people. And so naturally disputes arise, often of importance to the parties but of minor consequence to the public - barking
dogs, smoking in the building, paint color choices. Prior to the CRT, these
disputes had to be addressed in public court, a relatively expensive and
complicated process.
"As a design choice, we picked an area to start with that is pretty narrow,
but where the pain point for the public is really high," Salter says. "The
members of the condominium community were very, very annoyed at
having to go to the Superior Court to resolve disputes, but at the same
time those condominium disputes are not life-or-death issues. Nobody
is going to prison. Nobody is scared of losing custody of their children or
anything like that."
"The stakes are relatively low, which is a good place to start when you are
trying to do something fundamentally new," Salter adds.
The condominium program was so successful after the first year that the
British Columbia government added small claims cases valued up to
CAN$5,000. It then added motor vehicle and personal injury claims for up
to CAN$50,000 and, lately, almost all motor vehicle matters to the CRT.
"In a three-and-a-half-year period, our jurisdiction started small and then
increased really substantially year over year over year," Salter says.

''

Courtesy of Shannon Salter

"There wasn't a jurisdiction in the world that had incorporated an online
court into a public justice system. It was both a blessing and a curse of
a blank slate. There wasn't a path to follow. But that meant we had an
opportunity to do something fundamentally different," Salter says. "We
tried to build a user-centric design. We had to really ask ourselves what is
necessary to bring a justice system to people, and build it around their
lives and account for their various circumstances. We really built it from
the ground up."

There wasn't a jurisdiction in the world that had
incorporated an online court into a public justice system.
It was both a blessing and a curse of a blank slate . . .
But that meant we had an opportunity to do something
fundamentally different.
SHANNON SALTER
Civil Resolution Tribunal (Canada)

determining whether or not someone is telling the truth and collecting
evidence," Prescott says.
But the truth is, judges' questions are often simple, repetitive, and
could be handled online, says Prescott. And while courts are organized
for the benefit of judges, who are a limited resource in the parlance of
economics, courts are really inefficient for "users" who are not traditional
customers who have choices and can put pressure on courts to perform
better. Courts are essentially a monopoly, according to Prescott.

A similar expansion is happening in the United States, where the
Matterhorn system, a private-sector offering by Court Innovations, is
now in use in 70 courts, dispute resolution centers, and municipalities
in 10 states.

"We handle people who want to object to an accusation made by the
government that is going to cost them $150 potentially by telling them
to show up at 8 or 9 o'clock in the morning and just wait in line until it
is their turn, rather than having an appointed time," Prescott says. "If you
think about it, literally thousands and thousands of people take the day
off work to go deal with a traffic ticket. That can't be a good solution for
our economy. There is this almost kind of a market failure because courts
say you are going to follow our rules."

Developed by J. J. Prescott, a professor of law at the University of Michigan,
the program started small as an access-to-justice project and has since
expanded. In addition to a law degree, Prescott has a PhD in economics
from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He tends to speak about
how the world works in terms of incentives, costs, and benefits.

The Matterhorn system allows the judge and parties to work "asynchronously." The back-and-forth communication that happens inside a
physical courtroom takes place online, and not all at the same time.
For court administrators worried about case backlogs, resolution times,
and government budgets, moving workflows online just makes sense.

"My initial way of thinking about online courts was, what are we going
to lose with online courts? We are going to lose that face-to-face way of

But the advent of online courts doesn't mean there won't be traditional
courtroom dramas in the future. "There are cases where credibility is

OPENING UP U.S. COURTS

MAY 2020

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WASHINGTON LAWYER

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Washington Lawyer - May 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - May 2020

LETTER TO MEMBERS ON COVID-19 CRISIS
FROM OUR PRESIDENT
PRACTICE MANAGEMENT
ABA DELEGATE’S CORNER
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
REVOLUTIONIZING THE BUSINESS OF LAW
DIGITAL JUSTICE
ADVANCING THE HUMAN RIGHTS C AUSE ACROSS BORDERS
TAKING THE STAND
ON FURTHER REVIEW
MEMBER SPOTLIGHT
WORTH READING
ATTORNEY BRIEFS
SPEAKING OF ETHICS
DISCIPLINARY SUMMARIES
THE PRO BONO EFFECT
SPECIAL SECTION: THE REVOLUTIONARY C RYSTAL EASTMAN
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 1
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 2
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 3
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 4
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - LETTER TO MEMBERS ON COVID-19 CRISIS
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - FROM OUR PRESIDENT
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - PRACTICE MANAGEMENT
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 8
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - ABA DELEGATE’S CORNER
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 11
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - REVOLUTIONIZING THE BUSINESS OF LAW
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 13
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 14
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 15
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 16
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 17
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - DIGITAL JUSTICE
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 19
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 20
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 21
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 22
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 23
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - ADVANCING THE HUMAN RIGHTS C AUSE ACROSS BORDERS
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 25
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 26
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 27
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 28
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 29
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - TAKING THE STAND
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 31
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - ON FURTHER REVIEW
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 33
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - MEMBER SPOTLIGHT
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 35
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 36
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 37
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - WORTH READING
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 39
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 40
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - ATTORNEY BRIEFS
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - SPEAKING OF ETHICS
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 43
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - DISCIPLINARY SUMMARIES
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 45
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - THE PRO BONO EFFECT
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 47
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - SPECIAL SECTION: THE REVOLUTIONARY C RYSTAL EASTMAN
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 49
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 50
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 51
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - 52
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - May 2020 - Cover4
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