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Authors

Deno Himonas

Abstract

This article by Utah Supreme Court Justice Deno Himonas describes Utah’s Online Dispute Resolution or ODR system. Launched in September 2018, Utah’s ODR system is available to litigants who have small claims disputes that involve $11,000 or less. The ODR system has been designed to provide “simple, quick, inexpensive and easily accessible justice” that includes “individualized assistance and information that is accessible across a multitude of electronic platforms.”

This article describes the history and philosophy behind Utah’s ODR system and includes a number of screen shots that show what an ODR litigant will see. Utah is the first U.S. state to deploy an ODR system capable of handling an entire dispute, as opposed to a discrete part of a dispute such as mandatory mediation. Utah’s ODR system undoubtedly will be an example for court systems throughout the country.

In addition to the screen shots that show the litigant’s view, this article includes screen shots that illustrate what the ODR facilitators will see. One of the most notable and important aspects of Utah’s ODR system is its use of trained facilitators to help the parties resolve their disputes. As the article explains, “[a]s soon as both parties have joined the web portal, a facilitator is assigned to the case.” The facilitators, who undergo extensive in-house training, help facilitate the preparation of a settlement document or, if the case does not settle, a trial preparation document.

This article demonstrates the Utah Courts’ commitment to access to justice and its efforts to remain relevant in a changing world. Utah’s ODR system allows unrepresented parties and represented parties to communicate asynchronously or in real time. It removes location barriers which is extremely important for a state the size of Utah with a widely-dispersed population. The ODR system reduces information asymmetry through its use of expert systems and trained facilitators. In sum, after reading this article, the reader will understand why Utah created its new ODR system, the philosophy and assumptions that drove its design, and the logistics of how it will work.

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