The Court Messaging Project (now called Wise Messenger) is an open-source initiative from Stanford’s Legal Design Lab, to build an out-of-the-box tool for any court or legal services group to send automated messages to their clients.  The overarching goal of the project is to make the court system more navigable and to improve people’s sense of procedural justice — that legal system is fair, comprehensible, and user-friendly.

We are looking for court or legal aid groups for user testing

As we refine our Wise Messenger software application, we want to get more input from possible partners, to make sure that we are making an intuitive and useful product for them to use.

In particular, we are looking for court leaders, clerks, and administrators, who are considering implementing text message systems for their litigants. These might be for self-help information, reminders of deadlines and hearings, or RSVP for court workshops or other events.

Similarly, we are looking for legal aid groups and clinics who are considering if they could use text messages for intake of clients, RSVP to clinics, reminders for appointments, or surveys after services.

We will show you our beta Wise Messenger product, look to hear from you about your priorities and needs, and talk to you about how we might be able to partner in the future. Just let us if you’re interested — fill out the contact form.

The Rundown on Our Text Messaging System

Our Current Design

Wise Messenger allows court or legal admins to take clients’ info from their current case management system, and enroll the client in a text messaging flow custom to them. The client will receive an automated series of messages with reminders and tips for their upcoming obligations — to make sure that they stay on track with their legal process and are prepared for all the requirements.

Court Messaging System workflow app-03

Our initial use case was a hearing reminder system for youth in the foster care system. The young person will receive messages with the date, time, and location of their hearings, and they’ll get a series of reminders to ensure that they’re aware and prepared for their hearings. The goal of the pilot use case is to improve the Failure to Appear rate for youth at hearings. We will be gathering data to evaluate how the messaging system affects the appearance rate, as well as the recipients’ perception of procedural justice.

We have developed Wise Messenger as an open-source software that is case management system-agnostic.

The goal is that any legal services or court office could send text messages to their litigants/clients for minimal money — only the small amounts of money it takes to send the messages over the mobile phone networks — and with minimal technical expertise. They would not have to go through their case management system vendor to get expensive changes or additions through them.

Our Earlier Design

Court Messaging Project navocado admin platform

The platform will also allow more ambitious types of messages in the future. Aside from hearing and appointment reminders, there could be other ‘court coach’ content distributed through SMS — including public transportation guides to get to court on time, tips on how to dress, speak, and act in court, warnings of common mistakes and failpoints, and other procedural information to ensure a person has the best legal experience possible.

Our Project

We began our work with two initial target users:

  • a Juvenile Defendant, who has been arrested & now has an upcoming appearance at court to resolve his case, and
  • a Court Staff Member, who wants to ensure that people scheduled to appear in court actually do appear.

Our project’s initial main goal is to reduce the Failure to Appear rate among juveniles.  This will serve the Juvenile User by protecting him from fines, warrants for arrest, and holds on his driver’s license.  It may also increase his confidence in the judicial system and sense of procedural fairness.

It will serve the Court Staff User’s (and the judicial system’s) interest in efficiency —  by lessening the need to reschedule appearances, achieving resolution more promptly, and preventing cases from becoming more complicated or lengthy — putting a higher demand on the system’s limited resources.

From this initial use case, we have expanded to all kinds of people who are in need of process-guidance to be able to follow through on getting legal help. This includes people going through divorce, getting evicted, or seeking out legal aid or brief advice clinics.

After more exploratory workshops, we’ve identified several different use cases for automating text messages between courts/legal aid groups and people:

  1. Process Coaching: When people have signed up for a legal process — or been forced into one, and text messages can provide them customized, regular information about where they are in the process and what they should be doing
  2. RSVP and Prep: When people want to attend a clinic, workshop, or special services — and they can send in an RSVP and be prepared for the event and services
  3. Screening for eligibility and issues: When the legal org wants to screen a person for eligibility and their situation, the text messages can lead them through this guided interview and provide them with some outcome about next steps.

Our Process

We are building the system to be open-source, so that it will be free to use by any organization that is not using it for commercial purposes. We also are building it to be modular and scalable, so that the system could be deployed in many different jurisdictions with minimal customization.

Court Messaging System app workflows-01-01

To develop the system, we will be working with lawyers who work with the Santa Clara County court representing kids in foster care during their state hearings. These lawyers & court officials will provide us input & a pilot sandbox to create a basic first version of a Court Reminder Messaging system. We will run this first version as a test case, to see if the basics of the text messaging work and provide value to both target users.

If the pilot system is found to be functional, affordable, and worthwhile, then we plan to scale it up in several possible directions:

  • more types of messaging — for appointments not just with the court, but with attorneys, probation officers, and other people involved in the process
  • richer content in the messages — with information about transportation to the courts, what to expect during court proceedings, how to dress and behave, red flag warnings, and best practice advice
  • messaging to other people in the juvenile’s circle, including parents, who may encourage the juvenile to appear, help coordinate transportation to make it easier to make the appointment, and provide other support that will improve the court appearance

Our Team

We are working in a small core team to build partnerships with court staff and develop a first version of a Court Messaging System.

The team is comprised of Margaret Hagan, Briane Cornish, James Williams, Andrew Suciu, and John Merriman Sholar. We are partnered with the Stanford Computer Science group Code the Change, who works to build civic projects on a pro bono basis.

Margaret is leading the design process of the project, scoping out the mission and producing initial work product.

Andrew and John are building the messaging tool to be using in our first pilot — and working with our partners in Santa Clara & the California Judicial Council to make sure that the tool will work with the current systems and fit the current workflows.

Briane is developing the relationships with judges, court staff, and other stakeholders, who will partner with us to launch pilots.

James is advising on the development the system itself, and working with court IT staff to design the system that will most workable for the courts.

Recent Posts

As we've tested Wise Messenger more for work with courts and legal aid, we have realized the importance of supporting admins in learning a new tool that might not have ...
In one of our other use cases, we are building an automated RSVP tool for legal clinics. It lets people organizing a social service event to advertise it with a ...
We started our first official pilot this autumn with the Self-Help Services division of the Orange County Superior Court. We are sending coaching messages for people who have filed for ...
We were excited to have one of our final pre-pilot meetings today with our pilot partner, the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley. We have a coded-up version of our web ...
These are a shortlist of guidelines for people who are writing the content for text messages to be sent out to citizens. They are from the open-source project Promptly, from ...
These instructions are from the open-source Code for America project Promptly, to allow a government user to easily send messages to clients or potential clients. It was written in December ...
Promptly is a messaging app built by a team of Code for America fellows with SF Health & Human Services, to help keep people enrolled for foodstamps by sending them ...
TextMyBus is a Code for America project with the Detroit government to get messages about the bus arriving through simple texts. Get real-time bus arrival information in Detroit. Source: TextMyBus - Detroit ...
Here's a guide from Smart Chicago about how to use Twilio to send messages to your users or clients, to better manage their engagement. Twilio is a cloud communications platform that ...
A paper from the world of Human Computer Interaction about how SMS systems can be used to improve health outcomes and doctor-patient relationships.   Effective communication between health professionals and patients ...
This research paper from Microsoft India look at a parallel challenge - -how to get women going through pregnancy to follow good healthy behavior, like taking iron supplements. The researchers ...
We are close to defining exactly how our first court messaging pilot will operate. The implementation has to work with the existing case management system that our partner group uses. ...
Today we had our first on-site test of our barebones tech prototype -- that lets a court official or attorney send a quick text message to their client/litigant. The tech ...
Sense Health helps healthcare organizations engage patient populations through mobile communication. Sense Health is a messaging app that comes from the world of client-care in medicine & hospitals but it has ...
MightyText is a message-sending tool to send SMS From Computer or Tablet. It gives you a phone-, tablet-, or desktop-based platform that lets you send text messages to others' phones. It's ...
TextIt is a tool to visually build interactive SMS Applications. At the core of TextIt lies our exclusive Flow engine. With Flows, anybody create an engaging SMS or voice application without ...
CareMessage is a health-oriented SMS messaging platform that offers its client a way to send high-quality interactive (but automated) content to their patients, toe educate and support them during a ...
FrontlineSMS is a free & open-source application to send out SMS messages to your audience. You can run the admin app on your desktop, it's free software to use. From ...
Remind is a messaging platform intended for teachers to send out messages to students & parents to coordinate classwork. Teachers simply sign up, create a class, add students, and start messaging. ...
  Create a very streamlined, basic reminder system that is aimed at litigants with upcoming court dates It could be with the court staff entering in the information or it could be with the litigant ...
From early in our design process, here are the questions that need to be answered so that we can build a great system: About the End User: Will the end user want ...

5 Comments on “Home”

  1. Anshuman

    Hi Team,

    Hope you guys are doing great!!

    I am based out of India and working on similar kind of project to make litigants life easier because fight for Justice in not easy and smooth in India. So, I also believe this kind of support will make them feel more confident and at least will help them in some way.

    It would be great if you can guide me in some points or let me know if its possible that I can leverage your valuable knowledge in implementing this system in India.

    Thanks in advance !

  2. Christine McNab

    I am citing your work from your website in a per and I would like to know how you would like to be cited. Who is the author? And what year?

  3. Christine McNab

    Dear Margaret,
    Sorry, stupid auto correct. I’m writing a paper to present to government officials regarding auto text messaging for court reminders and would appreciate if you could let me know how you and/or your team would like to be cited. Thank you!
    Christine McNab

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