Three out of five people in civil cases have no lawyer, but are often navigating issues with profound importance to their lives. At the same time, the courts are trying to manage a massive volume of cases, with particularly large numbers of cases concerning debt collection and housing. How can courts help people resolve their problems, and still operate efficiently? This policy practicum will partner students directly with a court that is interested in re-imagining how two types of court cases — eviction and debt collection — could work better for all involved. We will work on site at court, with observations, interviews, ride-alongs, and workshops to understand how these cases work and what outcomes result. Students will map out opportunities for change and a vision of what a redesign process might look like.
This class is the first phase of a multi-year partnership with the National Center for State Courts to redesign the civil justice system so that it works better for all litigants, especially those without a lawyer. Students will learn how to do design research, facilitate multi-stakeholder system redesign, and envision a government innovation process. Their work will directly feed into future classes, pilots, and studies into how to make housing and debt court more efficient, accessible, and just.