Court Innovations' online platform for violations, warrants reduces backlog at 74th District Court

Faced with a backlog, the 74th District Court in Bay City, Bay County, Michigan began looking for a way to improve access to justice and court efficiency. Traffic, failure to appear, and failure to pay fines are cases that don’t necessarily need to be heard in court, yet are the most common cases that judges hear.

 In late 2014, the court began offering Court Innovations’ Matterhorn as an alternative to resolving these minor violations, which cost the courts and defendants unnecessary time and money. Matterhorn’s online platform enables defendants, police, prosecutors and judges to conveniently work together towards resolving a traffic ticket or warrant.

 “Matterhorn’s online platform has improved what was an inefficient process that was leading to a backlog of cases in the courtroom and a general sense of dissatisfaction with the courts in the community,” said 74th District Court Judge Dawn Klida. “It’s incredible that it now takes less than a week to request a review of a traffic violation and to receive a ruling.  We’re excited that we have also been able to resolve a number of outstanding warrants with the online case review system.”
Matterhorn walks individuals through a series of qualifying questions that determines whether they are eligible to resolve their violation online.  For traffic violations, a defendant submits their position, which is first reviewed by staff at the Bay County Prosecutor’s Office. From there, a judge determines next steps, including assessing fines that a defendant can pay online.

 By adopting Matterhorn, the 74th District Court took a leadership position in making justice more accessible than ever before. Minor violations are resolved without needing a lawyer and without going to court. In a system that’s often criticized for being slanted against those who might already be at a disadvantage, Matterhorn offers a positive step forward in leveling the playing field.

 Taking time off of work or having to hire an attorney can be cost prohibitive for some, who then risk a misdemeanor offense unnecessarily escalating. A ticket that’s ignored can quickly result in losing a driver’s license, being issued a warrant, or getting arrested.

 Those with warrants for a missed court date or outstanding fines in Bay County can use Matterhorn to request a resolution without the risk of being taken into custody.  For failure to appear, a defendant can provide a reason for their absence and be given a new court date. For failure to pay warrants, Matterhorn offers a way to submit a payment online, set up a payment plan and recall a warrant.

 In warrant cases, the option to use Matterhorn can be life changing. “Matterhorn not only improves the process of resolving a warrant, it alleviates the fears that people might have about coming to court to do so, and getting arrested,” said Judge Klida. “Defendants can go online, see their options for resolving a warrant, and can even set up a payment plan to settle a fine. As soon as a defendant commits to a payment plan, their warrant will be recalled, and they wont have to carry around the stress of possibly getting arrested and going to jail.”

 Matterhorn is gaining traction as word spreads throughout the Bay County community about the value and convenience of being able to resolve legal disputes online. Citizens and the court system equally benefit from Court Innovations’ efficient system that ensures justice and fairness are served.