5th Circuit Court launches small claims online dispute resolution pilot project
Parties involved in small claims suits on Kaua‘i have a new way to try and resolve their cases online, before court-ordered mediation.
The 5th Circuit Court has launched an online dispute resolution pilot project. The program allows parties to file cases at their convenience, without having to take time off work, find care for a family member and incur the cost of gas and parking, or the time and expense for public transportation for multiple trips to the courthouse.
Beginning today (Feb. 1), parties in certain small claims cases will be required to use TurboCourt, an online application, to file, negotiate and attempt to resolve their cases before court-ordered mediation. Parties who might not have the technological resources to participate online must request an exemption from a judge.
“We have found that self-represented litigants like the convenience of filing online, with 52% doing so during non-business hours, on weekends and even holidays,” said Hawai‘i State Judiciary Innovations Officer Angela Min.
Using TurboCourt, which guides them through the process with step-by-step questions, the program generates and files all the required court forms, including the option to request a fee waiver. In addition, the online resolution program provides parties a seven-day window to negotiate their dispute and generate a settlement agreement all within the portal. Those parties unable to fully resolve their dispute, but might have been able to come a little closer to an agreement, will return to court for court-ordered mediation to resolve the remaining disputes.
In 2021, the 1st Circuit on O‘ahu was the first to launch the pilot program, followed by the 2nd Circuit in Maui County. Most recently, the Big Island’s 3rd Circuit Court launched the online program in fall 2022. As a result, 1,153 individuals were able to electronically file their small claim cases, with many of those parties using the free online negotiation tools to dispute their small claims cases instead of immediately heading to court.
With the launch of the program in the 5th Circuit, the online dispute resolution project is now statewide.
Now in its second year, the online dispute resolution project continues to allow self-represented litigants to have the ability to file their small claims cases, including recovering money owed up to $5,000 or recovering a residential security deposit.
More detailed information about the program can be found on the Judiciary website under the “Self-Help tab – Small Claims” or by calling the 5th Circuit District Court in Līhuʻe at 808-482-2303.