How can we make the US justice system more accessible, equitable, and human-centered?
Stanford Legal Design Lab runs ongoing research, workshops, classes, and tech development on Justice Innovation. On this site, we spotlight our top priorities for courts, legal aid groups, foundations, and others interested in making the justice system work better for people.
In particular, we are working on interventions that can:
- Increase people’s participation in the legal system, especially when their rights, money, freedom, and reputation are at risk. This includes working to decrease Failures to Appear at court hearings, and to decrease Default Judgment rates in housing and debt matters.
- Increase people’s legal capabilities to navigate the legal system, which can ensure that people are willing to engage with the system, that they understand their rights and options, and are able to deploy this knowledge into strategies.
- Improve the quality of justice for cases that go through the courts, that includes litigants’ sense of procedural justice throughout the case, the substantive justice in the cases’ outcomes, and the social justice of people’s outcomes after the case has finished.
Our Lab’s Justice Innovation Projects
National Legal Help FAQ platform for eviction
In Spring 2020, we built a national Legal Help FAQ platform, with 50-state coverage, of renters’ rights and protections during the COVID-19 emergency.
Our team did extensive legal research and assembled a national network of housing law experts to be able to present, in plain language, if renters could be evicted, how much time they had to pay rent, and what new protections they might have in court. It also has a national database of local legal aid groups, court self-help sites, emergency rental programs, and other services that we could connect renters to in each state.
The Legal Help FAQ platform was built with the support of The Pew Charitable Trusts.
The Lab has created Wise Messenger, a platform to set up automated text messages from a court, or other legal organization to their users. We are studying whether procedural notifications by SMS improve people’s appearance rates at hearings, appointments, and other important legal events.
If your court or office would be interested in sending automated text reminders and procedural notifications, please let us know here, and we’ll be in contact.
When people search online for contact information, hours, and procedure for your organization — make sure that they find your website and the help information on it. By applying Schema.org markup to the back-end of your website, search engines like Google, Yahoo, and others will better be able to recognize that your organization should be featured high on search results.
Our Lab has made a tool so that you can easily create this markup, and then paste it onto your website’s backend code.
Our team, working with university, court, and foundation partners in Arizona, built the Arizona Eviction Self-Help website for tenants in Pima County to understand their rights, prepare documents, and get court hearing information for their upcoming eviction hearing.
We are currently running a randomized-control study in which tenants who have been sued for eviction, are sent fliers our team designed to let them know about their rights and the website. Then once they come to the website, we help them identify what defenses or counterclaims they might have, prepare an Answer or other forms, and find their case docket and timing information.
We will be publishing more about the design of this website (and the larger mailer and study design), and the outcomes of the website’s engagement and effectiveness levels.
Give people a birds-eye view of what to do when appearing before a traffic court — and how to request relief from fines and fees.
The Legal Design Lab team created these open-source designs in our classes and now makes them widely available for replication and reuse. For example, we made these Traffic Court visuals in Design For Justice: Traffic Court, with our partners East Bay Community Law Center and NLADA. The visual designs for posters and handouts have been piloted in Alameda County, California. They were particularly created for courts that have recently introduced ‘Ability to Pay’ procedures.
If you would like to adapt these to your court or clinic, to help litigants understand their pleading options and how to request ‘Ability to Pay’ evaluation, please write to us. We will be happy to help you adapt these flowcharts and visuals to your context.
Welcome to Stanford Legal Design Lab’s Justice Innovation site, a clearinghouse of projects, ideas, and research for making a user-centered legal system.
We bring the best current projects and future ideas together to identify how we can get to 100% Access to Justice.
Our goal is to spotlight affordable, scalable, meaningful new projects that courts, clinics, startups, and others can deploy.