“Justice for all” is a fundamental American concept that does not correspond to reality for many citizens, but the software company Ann Arbor Matterhorn tries to turn words into deeds. Matterhorn has created an online dispute resolution platform that allows individuals to deal with a variety of legal issues online rather than physically going to court. Matterhorn provides increased access, fairness and customer satisfaction for those who may have difficulty in going to court in person.
“Those who couldn’t make it to court to pay their fines are getting more court costs and higher fines,” said Matterhorn CEO MJ Cartwright. “It’s all about access to justice.
Matterhorn started seven years ago as a non-profit organization that aimed to help individuals resolve online disputes such as traffic violations, warrants and family court issues such as mediation.
“We strive to help people access it regardless of their racial and economic status,” Cartwright said. “… We want people to have all their papers up to date and have clean criminal records so that they can access the justice system in the same way as everyone else.”
Cartwright refers to the publication “Are disparities in litigation outcomes inevitable? Courts, technology and the future of fairness“, co-authored by JJ Prescott, founder of The Matterhorn and professor of law at the University of Michigan, which explores the biases implicit in human decision-making. By hosting legal proceedings online, Matterhorn offers new hope of reducing disparities in the justice system by eliminating face-to-face interactions, thereby mitigating unwarranted biases. These biases and disparities fade with online rather than face-to-face interactions, according to the research.
With technology like Matterhorn, customers not only have the ability to reduce the degree to which their physical characteristics play a role in legal proceedings, but can also change the nature of communication in litigation and reorganize the structure of the court. process. According to the study, the technology also has the potential to reveal long-hidden structural trends towards disparity, or even implicit bias, in judicial decision-making.
Currently, Matterhorn is available in approximately 90 locations, most in Michigan, Ohio, Arizona, and Arkansas. Matterhorn plans to launch in over 150 different locations across the country. Some of these locations will be in areas with higher black and brown populations, such as Detroit, Miami, and Atlanta, where income levels are low and needs are significantly high.
“We want to make sure people are represented correctly. Most people can’t afford a lawyer,” Cartwright said.
Cartwright also notes that some Matterhorn cases may be a simple traffic stop, while others may be more serious crimes. Matterhorn services have been designed for mobile devices to ensure that anyone can access them. The system is designed to be easy to use in order to remove as many barriers as possible for all users.
Some Matterhorn users have given anonymous testimonies about the effects of the Matterhorn on their lives.
“I could have appeared in court, but that would have made it very difficult because I work at midnight (s) and I also take care of my autistic son,” said one user. “I’m sure there are other people in my situation so I think that’s great.”
Another user, who is disabled, said Matterhorn helped them avoid “a catastrophic chain reaction of debt.” Others said it was an easy, fair and quick way to resolve problems within the justice system.
While Matterhorn strives to address fairness issues in the courts, the company also aims to address diversity issues within its own staff. Although Matterhorn is not currently hiring, Cartwright says the company still aims to hire more diverse employees.
“Most of the candidates who apply to work with us are mostly white males and we need to make sure in our own business that we represent everyone,” Cartwright said.
Learn more about resolution of traffic tickets with Matterhorn and resolution mandate with Matterhorn.
Monica Hickson is a freelance writer currently based in Ypsilanti.
All photos courtesy of the Matterhorn.