Making the Case for Online Dispute Resolution Platforms

Online dispute resolution (ODR) systems are more relevant and less risky, allowing courts to provide more access to justice.

Technology Needs

When COVID-19 hit, there were strict safety protocols and quarantine restrictions in effect in many places. Some courts, especially those dealing with traffic and misdemeanor offenses, closed. It was not possible to have in-person proceedings, and there was a lag before virtual court sessions became more commonplace. The result was a delay in justice for the public and a reduction in revenue for the courts. OpenGov’s State of Local Government Survey 2020 found that 82 percent of local governments suffered a loss of income from the payment of fines. Some courts, which did stay open, saw swift repercussions, such as the lawsuit against the L.A. County Superior Court judge claiming he unnecessarily jeopardized the health and violated the constitutional rights of litigants and solicitors by having them appear in person.

Even before the pandemic, courts and the public considered technology options to streamline the traffic court system. It was viewed as a solution toward saving time and promoting access to justice. When courts had an immediate need to move proceedings online where possible, technology came to the fore. Even as we return to our “new normal,” there is little appetite for traffic courts to go back to the way they used to be.

Traffic Court Struggles

When someone is issued a traffic ticket, they may be faced with the choice to either pay it in full or to spend half a day in traffic court. If someone does not think the ticket is worth contesting or if they know that they were in the wrong, paying the ticket outright may make sense. On the other hand, those who wish to appear in court must commit a good deal of time and energy to the process. Although courts have streamlined the way defendants move through the system, it still takes a few hours at best. This time limits an individual’s ability to work or care for family members. If someone decides not to go to court or pay the ticket, it leads to other negative consequences, such as a suspended license.

Adopting technology for people to engage with the courts and to resolve cases provides a third, more convenient option to the person faced with a court date.

Online Dispute Resolution

Online dispute resolution is a digital environment where judges, attorneys, law-enforcement officers, defendants, and other related parties can communicate to resolve a case. This concept was initially created for e-commerce websites. eBay uses ODR to facilitate discussions between buyers and sellers. The method been helpful in resolving complaints, and eBay also found that online transactions increased for both winners and losers of disputes handled through ODR. That success led to ODR being used for more than 60 million e-commerce disputes per year, which is more than the entire U.S. civil court system

ODR is now being used for more and more court cases. It is especially useful for relatively straightforward matters, such as traffic disputes, because it saves defendants the time and energy of going to court. Plus, it streamlines the process for members of the court, reducing workload.

How It Works

An online traffic resolution system allows a person involved in a traffic offense to view the citation, communicate with the court, submit additional documentation and evidence, dispute the claim, and even pay a fine. Similarly, attorneys, law-enforcement officers, magistrates, and judges can review cases, chat with each other, suggest or approve recommendations, and ensure a swift resolution for each matter.

Some ODR systems incorporate webcams. That allows people to talk directly with attorneys and judges, but it also means hearings must be done at set appointment times during office hours, which could still be an inconvenience. Non-video ODRs facilitate everything through an on-demand online portal and can allow for more flexibility. Anyone involved in the legal matter can login anytime 24/7 to access, review, update, and move the case forward. That means there is no need to worry about traffic court docket times or the possibility of interrupting a medical operation, as happened recently with a Californian surgeon whose Zoom traffic court hearing made international headlines.

For example, if a city or county has a non-video online traffic dispute resolution system, these are the steps:

  1. The person who received the citation would have the option to visit a website instead of physically going to traffic court.
  2. On the site, they would have the choice to “pay now” or “dispute now.” If they decide to dispute, the link will lead them to the online portal.
  3. The online process starts just like it does in a courtroom. The person is notified of their rights as a defendant, which may be a written statement or a video filmed by the judge. Once the person confirms they understand their rights, they can plead their case.
  4. Within the system, an accused can contest the speeding charge or ask for a reduction in the fine or points because of good driving behavior. Once that is submitted, including any uploaded documents, the information is sent to the court solicitor.
  5. The solicitor receives an alert about the case, as well as a notification on their dashboard. Once they review it, they respond by accepting the defendant’s request, modifying it, or rejecting it.
  6. The defendant then receives a text message and email letting them know about the update or offer on their case. They can choose to accept, modify, or reject the offer.
  7. When the offer is accepted by the defendant, it goes to the judge’s platform.
  8. The judge receives a notification about the case and, after review, can decide to accept, modify, or reject the offer.
  9. Once the judge accepts it, the defendant gets another notification about the case status. The defendant then signs to agree to the resolution and pay the fine, if necessary.

It’s a back-and-forth process that takes place over a few hours or days, and each next step can be taken whenever is convenient for each party—whether that’s 3 a.m. or 3 p.m. That said, at any point, the defendant has the right to stop the online process, hire an attorney, and schedule an in-person court hearing.

Selecting an ODR Platform

There are numerous online dispute resolution applications available. It’s critical to think through your needs, the various options, and the following considerations so you will find the best fit for your court system:

  • Security—Each ODR has a unique security infrastructure and employs different certifications, so you will need to confirm the requirements with your IT team. Ensure the platform provides access control, facilitates data backup, and uses strict security measures to keep your data safe. Also, ask about the way data will be pushed to and pulled from your other systems and if there is any expected downtime.
  • Integration—Learn what is involved to get the case details and payment data integrated with your current case management system. It also may need to be integrated with your website and other systems. The costs and time for implementation can vary depending on the complexity of the platform.
  • Multiple citations—If a person is charged with more than one traffic offense, such as a DUI citation in combination with no proof of insurance and failure to wear a seat belt, your system needs to be able to handle them all at the same time. If not, there is risk of double jeopardy. Not every ODR can handle multiple citations, so it’s critical to find out if that is a feature you need.
  • Future needs—Determine if the platform can be tailored to your current and upcoming needs. Some companies may promise customization, but only offer limited options, while others are willing to re-code the system to meet your court’s changing specifications. This may be important if you are thinking of potentially scaling up the system for other areas, like small claims.
  • Cost—Some platforms are free to courts, receiving revenue through the credit card fees that are charged directly to the users. If, rather than a no-cost platform, you are considering a platform with a per-transaction cost both to the court and to the person paying the fine, you should understand the options and determine if the price is commensurate with the benefits your court will receive. 
  • User experience—Even if a system is perfectly functional, people still want it to be easy to navigate. Test out the steps required for users to go through the process. Can people make a payment within the platform, or are they sent to a separate site? Does the ODR provider include customer service and technical support?
  • Reporting—The platform should provide dashboards, analytics, and other reports that offer both high-level and detailed information. That will allow you to see trends, anticipate needs, and enhance your processes.

Impact of ODR

When online traffic dispute resolution is implemented in a court system, there are numerous benefits, including:

  • Improving efficiencies—Cases may move faster online than in-person. There is less time spent waiting for things to happen, and each step of the workflow is streamlined. What took hours or days will take just minutes. Thus, more legal matters are handled in less time.
  • Increasing revenue collection—Courts can make up pandemic-related lost revenue, even if social distancing is still in effect. As many people will prefer to use online options even beyond the pandemic, ODR may offer accurate resolution and payment for other cases in your system.
  • Ensuring public safety—Traffic courts can function amid ongoing COVID or other health concerns. Additionally, more police officers can stay on patrol because they will not be held up in court.
  • Decreasing overhead costs—An online portal reduces costs allocated to electricity, supplies, parking, and other items.


The greatest benefit of ODR is that it provides more access to justice. A defendant does not have to worry about taking time off work, finding a babysitter, securing transportation, finding and paying for parking, or navigating to and around the courthouse. There are no lost wages or additional costs involved. It also allows the court to be open any time of day for anyone to take part.

ODR is helping courts confidently move forward into our digital future. It ensures cases are handled fairly and efficiently, and courts see improved workflows and reduced workloads. The value will not go away when pandemic fears do. That’s why I believe ODR will become a mainstay in the court system. With ODR, the wheels of justice are not only still turning, but they also are still innovating.


Jarrett Gorlin has 25 years of experience in local law enforcement in the Greater Atlanta area and is currently a major in the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office. He is also a legal tech entrepreneur who co-founded Judicial Innovations, an Atlanta-based technology company that provides free cloud-based platforms for online traffic court resolution, government payments, and probation management. Learn more at