Current Projects

Court text messages scripts

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:

  1. Straightforward reminders
  2. Reminders including services/self-help
  3. 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.

A straightforward 10-5-1-day reminder flow for court hearings

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.

A reminder message with links to 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.

An example text message interactive flow

Current Projects

Can a legal aid group send proactive texts to people who have been sued?

More legal aid and court groups are excited to use text message strategies to reach people facing lawsuits. Texting may help encourage participation, increase uptake of free services, and empower people to avoid defaults & other bad legal outcomes.

But the problem many of them face is how to legally & ethically reach out to members of the public through text. If they don’t already have a relationship with a person, can they initiate a texting relationship with them?

For example, if a legal aid group sees that a person has been sued for eviction in a local county court, can they proactively send them a text message (especially if they have the person’s phone number from the court docket info or from a phone-lookup service)?

The Legal Services Corporation recently published an Advisory Opinion that walks through guidance to this question, to show legal aid groups how they can do this proactive text message outreach on a topic like eviction services — and still be in compliance with the law. They also have a Program Letter that explains how legal aid groups can do proactive texting without violating federal anti-spam laws.

Advisory Opinion on legal aid proactive texting

See this 2020 Advisory opinion on proactive text message outreach from the LSC to legal aid groups.

Program Letter on legal aid proactive texting

Also see this 2022 Program Letter from the LSC that walks through explicitly how proactive text message out reach can be done, in compliance with federal laws. Our Lab had written to the LSC to ask this question, because we had many legal aid colleagues who were thinking about adopting a text message reminder strategy & we wanted to make sure that the community knew how to do this in compliance with laws against spam or other violations.