Online Dispute Resolution of Low-Level Court Proceedings: Two Broken Field Experiments, One Unexpected Result

27 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2023 Last revised: 28 Jul 2023

See all articles by Renee Danser

Renee Danser

Harvard University - Access to Justice Lab

D. James Greiner

Harvard University - Center on the Legal Profession

Andy Gu

Independent

Philip W. O’Sullivan

Harvard University - Harvard Law School

Date Written: February 4, 2023

Abstract

During the COVID-19 pandemic, online dispute resolution (ODR) systems became a popular method for courts to dispense justice while, allegedly, minimizing cost. Observing this growth, proponents have argued that ODR increases litigants’ access to justice, mitigates risks of procedural error, and conserves judicial resources. This Essay argues that each contention is empirically uncertain. ODR’s purported benefits lack empirical proof and likely depend on the platform’s design.

This Essay recounts the Access to Justice Lab’s efforts to conduct two randomized control trials (RCTs) evaluating court-based ODR. Frustrated in our desire to contrast ODR to no ODR, or the availability of ODR to no such availability, we instead randomized (i) supplemental information about an ODR platform on citations versus no such information, and (ii) postcard encouragements to use an ODR platform versus no postcards. We were not surprised when one RCT saw only a single participant enroll over several months before we closed the study; nor were we surprised that, in the second RCT, the postcard failed to encourage ODR usage. However, we discovered that the presence of ODR boosted the efficacy of encouragements for users to resolve their traffic citations, whether users did so with the ODR platform or not. This boost comfortably surpassed the expected magnitude of similar encouragements in the literature, leading us to hypothesize the possibility of an interaction effect between ODR and reminders that may exceed the effect of the latter alone. We encourage additional research into this effect, and the broader impacts of ODR platforms.

Keywords: ODR, RCTs, reminder effects

JEL Classification: K41

Suggested Citation

Danser, Renee and Greiner, Daniel James and Gu, Andy and O’Sullivan, Philip W., Online Dispute Resolution of Low-Level Court Proceedings: Two Broken Field Experiments, One Unexpected Result (February 4, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4375081

Renee Danser

Harvard University - Access to Justice Lab ( email )

Daniel James Greiner (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Center on the Legal Profession ( email )

1585 Massachusetts Avenue
Wasserstein Hall, Suite 5018
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
(617) 496-4643 (Phone)

Andy Gu

Independent ( email )

Philip W. O’Sullivan

Harvard University - Harvard Law School

1563 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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