Ann Arbor-based Court Innovations' online court case resolution system will now be available to a variety of new clients, both through a partnership with two local substance abuse treatment nonprofits and service expansions in local courts.
Court Innovations' Matterhorn online resolution system allows users to deal with civil infractions and misdemeanors and pay fines online instead of visiting a court building in person. A University of Michigan (U-M) Law School spin-out, Court Innovations attracted $1.8 million in Series A financing in 2017 to expand Matterhorn and prove that court systems using the product for free in a pilot program could be converted to paying customers. That process is now complete, and Matterhorn is being used by 50 customers across 10 states, says chief product and marketing officer Dunrie Greiling.
The partnership between Court Innovations and local nonprofits Dawn Farm and Home of New Vision developed out of a collaboration with Meghan O'Neil, a social science research fellow at the U-M Law School. O'Neil had the idea of getting the word out about Matterhorn to vulnerable people who could benefit most from it.
"We were looking for ways to expand our product and make an impact starting in Washtenaw County," says Mike Losey, vice president of customer success for Court Innovations. "We wanted to start with those that aren't traditionally well-served by the courts, people who might have a hard time accessing the court or who were afraid to come into the court because of outstanding warrants or because they owed money."
The partnership with the substance abuse recovery nonprofits allows clients to handle cases online and resolve legal issues while undergoing residential treatment for addiction. This prevents a person who is trying to get his or her life back on track from experiencing a downward spiral of accruing more fines and potentially arrest warrants while he or she is trying to get sober, Losey says.
"When they're at the treatment center, they're on hiatus from a job or don't have a job, but working with the courts through Matterhorn, they can come to an agreement," says Losey. "While they're in treatment, the court will typically lift a warrant (for unpaid fines) or, if they're on a payment plan, make alternative arrangements while the person is finishing up treatment."
In addition to the nonprofit partnerships, Matterhorn is also expanding its presence and functionality in local courts. County district courts 14A and 14B are existing clients that recently expanded the types of cases that can be dealt with online through Matterhorn, and the 22nd Circuit Court recently signed on as a new client. Losey says District Court 15 will also come on board as a customer in the next few weeks.
As part of the expansion, participating Washtenaw County courts have added Friend of the Court cases to the types of cases that can be resolved online, including the ability for those who may have a warrant out on them for failure to meet child support payments to resolve their cases and pay up online.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image courtesy of Court Innovations.