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New Law, Data, and Design Lab Uses Innovation to Increase Justice System Access, Efficiency, and Fairness

The Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business introduces a new Law, Data, and Design Lab designed to improve fairness, efficiency, transparency, and access to justice systems in U.S. and global legal systems using computer and data science, operations management, public policy, and design.
Charlotte Alexander

Charlotte Alexander heads the new Law, Data, and Design Lab

In an age when technology permeates every aspect of society, there is an interdisciplinary group dedicated to harnessing its power to improve justice systems around the world. The new Law, Data, and Design Lab, headed by Charlotte Alexander, professor of Law and Ethics at the Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business, consists of a team of problem-solvers working to enhance fairness, efficiency, transparency, and access to justice. Their work impacts civil and criminal legal systems both nationally in the U.S. and internationally around the globe.

Currently, civil and criminal legal systems face multifaceted challenges, including inequitable processes and outcomes, case backlogs and delays, and barriers to affordable quality legal representation, especially for low-income individuals. Analyzing data can help identify potential biases and areas for intervention to reduce costs and delays.

However, it is equally crucial to engage with the various stakeholders involved in these legal systems, including judges, lawyers, litigants, law enforcement, policymakers, academics, and community members, to tap into their knowledge and experiences. By partnering with courts, government agencies, law firms, non-profits, community organizations and others, the Law, Data, and Design Lab team develops innovative solutions to tackle systemic challenges.

“The justice system touches almost all aspects of society and the economy, but court proceedings are often seen as slow, inefficient, costly, unpredictable, and unfair. Our work in the Lab uses tools and methods from across disciplines—from business to computer science to public policy and more—to build data- and design-focused solutions to justice problems,” said Alexander.

Taking an interdisciplinary approach, the Lab leverages methods from computer and data science (natural language processing and machine learning), operations management (process mining, simulation), public policy (program evaluation, case studies), and design (human-centered design, data visualization).

“For example, a team of operations researchers and I are adapting an AI-powered simulation tool used in hospital emergency rooms for modeling patient flows and wait times to tackle court delays. We first turned the text of court records into analyzable case event logs, and then fed the data into the simulation tool, which allows us to test the impact of changes in court staffing or procedure on case processing time and other metrics,” Alexander explained.

A key part of the Lab's mission involves collaborating with students from undergraduate and graduate programs. Working alongside faculty experts, students gain hands-on experience developing real-world solutions that drive positive change. Some recent projects include an AI system to create plain language summaries of complex legal documents, a data linkage project to identify predictors of eviction filings, and data models and simulations to optimize court schedules and reduce case backlog.

Currently, the Lab's initiatives span a wide range of innovative projects, including the following:

  • SCALES Open Knowledge Network, which leverages AI to create a publicly accessible data repository of federal court records and information
  • Integrated Justice Platform, which synthesizes arrest, court, and incarceration data from metro areas like Atlanta and Seattle, with plans to expand nationwide
  • Court Congestion Project, which analyzes case processing times and models how changes in resources could impact court delays and other justice outcomes
  • (In)Credible Evidence Project, which explores how legal rules and societal notions around data, technology, and credibility shape the evidence presented by litigants, and what is deemed believable inside and outside the courtroom

Through these and other cutting-edge projects, the Lab pioneers novel approaches to longstanding challenges within the judicial system. Their work pushes the boundaries of how data, technology, and interdisciplinary collaboration can revolutionize the pursuit of efficiency, fairness, and justice.

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