The Los Angeles Superior Court system will launch a free online dispute resolution program next week for litigants in small-claims cases in an effort to settle the disputes without traveling to a courthouse, the court’s presiding judge announced Thursday.

The Los Angeles Online Dispute Resolution program is the “latest example of the court’s efforts to expand access to justice through remote technology solutions which will endure well beyond the pandemic,” Presiding Judge Eric C. Taylor said in a statement.

The program is being launched Wednesday in partnership with the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs (DCBA) and the Center for Conflict Resolution.

“This first-of-its-kind partnership shows that public service and justice systems can collaborate using technology to help litigants resolve small-claims disputes through mediation without the need to travel to the courthouse and appear before a judge,” said Rafael Carbajal, the DCBA’s director. “We have seen that creating accessible remote solutions can reduce the time and costs associated with appearing in court, as well as keeping our communities safer at home during the pandemic.”

The program is primarily funded by the DCBA, with additional funding provided by the court.

Chris Welch, executive director of the Center for Conflict Resolution, said, “With 32 years of experience as a court mediation provider, the Center for Conflict Resolution is honored to partner with the court using the TurboCourt system. Another virtual door has opened to the courthouse. CCR is inside, ready to help parties resolve their disputes.”

The court said litigants with pending and new small-claims cases will be notified about the program, in which settlement agreements can be reached without a court hearing.

Parties who cannot reach an agreement within two court days of their scheduled court hearing will be required to appear in court — either in person or through the court’s online remote courtroom appearance service LACourtConnect, officials said.

The program is among a number that provide remote access to court services as part of the court’s Here For You|Safe for You initiative to improve efficiency and safely provide access during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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