As more courts use text messages to improve litigants’ access to justice, many wonder exactly how to set up texting.
What are the words, schedule, and flow of text messages for a court to use?
From our experience with working with criminal, traffic, housing, and other civil courts in doing text message projects, we have some options for courts to use.
There are 3 models:
- Straightforward reminders
- Reminders including services/self-help
- Interactive flow with services and accommodation help
We go through each texting model and share a sample script that courts have used in the past.
Texting Model 1: multiple-day countdown to the hearing.
The goal of this reminder text message flow is to increase participation rates, and reduce default rates for a hearing. It is a straightforward reminder script, focused on dates, times, and locations. There is also a mention of the consequences of default.
Texting Model 2: Reminder Plus Services
A second model for court reminders adds more services into the messages.
It can have a 10-5-1 day reminder schedule, but the messages also add in links and referrals to self-help services.
These could be links to workshops, self-help centers, hotlines, right to counsel, navigators, or other expert assistance services.
Texting Model 3: Interactive Service and Accommodations
In this model, the focus is less on reminders and more on connections to services.
The text message flow would start if the litigant texts a keyword into a court phone number, signaling that they want to find services or accommodation. The court summons might have this phone number and keyword on it, for litigants to follow.
The message flow is interactive, allowing the litigant to choose what kind of information or connections they would like.
The court sets up the interactive menu of options and provides phone numbers, hours, and other details about how to get legal aid, assistance, self-help, court directions, and disability or language accommodations.