State and local courts hear more than 95% of all cases filed in the United States, covering matters that directly affect the safety, well-being, and stability of millions of people and their communities. Many of these cases—including those involving debt collection, eviction, traffic, and child guardianship—can have profound, life-changing implications, and communities of color are disproportionately affected by the outcomes.
But in today’s state and local legal systems, many cases that would benefit from a judge’s consideration never reach the bench while matters that could be effectively resolved outside of the courtroom are clogging dockets. By contrast, effective, modern systems would enable judicial and court staff to focus on the cases that require their expertise and attention, allowing them to better serve communities.
The Pew Charitable Trusts’ courts and communities project works to build open, effective, and equitable state and local legal systems that enable all people to meaningfully participate in court processes, expeditiously resolve cases, and avoid unnecessary interactions with the court in favor of proven alternative interventions. The project supports efforts to deliver on this vision by producing data-driven research to expand knowledge on how courts affect individuals and communities and by building partnerships with communities, the private sector, policymakers, and other stakeholders to identify and advance comprehensive improvements.