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Meghan ONeil

Research Findings

Tackling poverty by repairing a broken American institution with technology

October 23, 2019

Most disputes in U.S. state courts are minor infractions, such as traffic violations. Yet for Americans living in poverty, a traffic ticket is not merely annoying; it could result in a worst-case scenario of losing a job or being thrown in jail.

A recent study by one of us found that online court software may offer a solution for minor legal disputes by connecting needy defendants to courts, for free, from anywhere with internet access: a public library, a family member’s mobile device, or a shelter. By improving and easing communication, online access can empower poor litigants to seek appropriate forms of relief, facilitate information sharing, and ultimately improve the accuracy of justice system outcomes.

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