Georgetown Law’s Judicial Innovation Fellowship Begins Transforming America’s Courts

September 25, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Judicial Innovation Fellowship’s (JIF) inaugural fellow class started work today to develop technology solutions for improving justice in America. The first-of-its-kind program, incubating at Georgetown Law, brings experienced technologists and designers into state, local and tribal courts to develop innovative solutions that improve the public’s access to justice.

After a competitive application process, three fellows were chosen for their professional ability, dynamism, and focus on improving access to justice across the U.S. The 2023-24 cohort of JIF Fellows are:

  • Kat Albrecht: An associate professor of criminology at Georgia State University, Kat is taking a leave of absence to work with the Hamilton County General Sessions Court in Chattanooga, Tenn. With a background in law and data, Kat will audit and improve how the courts share data to understand court patron experiences across government services, the criminal justice system, and court debt obligations in an effort to break cycles of debt, homelessness and criminal recidivism.
  • Emily Lippolis: A lawyer and a designer, Emily will work with the Kansas Supreme Court Office of Judicial Administration. Emily will be based at the Johnson County District Court, but her work will have a statewide reach. She will design the prototype of a user-friendly electronic filing system that works for people who don’t have access to a lawyer, also called self-represented litigants or SRLs.
  • Verenice Ramirez: A bilingual designer, Verenice will be working with the Utah State Courts’ Self-Help Center in Salt Lake City. She will develop internal processes for SRL customer development research, a guideline for hypothesis testing and a style guide for court tools.

“I became a designer hoping that someday I would be working on removing the barriers that people face when accessing justice and government services,” said JIF Fellow Emily Lippolis. “I’m beyond honored and humbled to be entrusted with this work by Georgetown Law and our state court partners.”

Each fellow has a different set of skills, and what they have in common is that they have been looking for opportunities to work in the justice system to improve everyday people’s experiences.

“Over the course of my career I have found myself encountering the same data access and production problems in courts over and over again — sometimes with devastating consequences for individual litigants and larger communities,” said JIF Fellow Kat Albrecht. “I became a Judicial Innovation Fellow in order to contribute to a solution. JIF is an opportunity to enact systemic change in how we build, understand and use court data.”

While each project is different, they all focus on scalable, replicable and open-source solutions that increase court transparency, efficiency and equity.

“At the Utah State Courts, we know that a business-as-usual approach won’t move the needle on access to justice,” said Nathanael Player, the director of the Utah State Courts Self-Help Center. “The JIF fellow will serve as both a multiplier, taking all of our self-help tools to the next level, and as a changemaker, helping us to incorporate design thinking into our processes and culture. As with other initiatives where Utah has led the way, we hope that these innovations can be helpful in other jurisdictions.”

For each fellow, their project brings together a unique confluence of skills to the benefit of the public’s access to courts and court administration.

“I’m excited to be a part of the Judicial Innovation Fellowship,” said JIF Fellow Verenice Ramirez. “My shift into UX design was driven by my experience spanning the legal and non-profit sectors to enhance accessibility for all. My project combines my passion for equitable access and enthusiasm for user-centered design.”

The JIF program launched last fall with a stated goal of leveraging technical talent to help close the justice gap. Each year, 86 million cases are filed in state courts alone, meaning that state courts have about the same number of users as Amazon Prime. That includes 55 million Americans who experience 260 million civil legal problems — including issues with eviction, consumer debt, domestic violence, veterans’ benefits and health care. Hundreds of thousands more go through criminal proceedings. Despite this staggering number, court processes are often confusing and not user-friendly and vanishingly fewer Americans enter civil court with representation. Ninety-two percent of low-income individuals facing a legal problem receive inadequate or no legal help, a problem increasingly felt by the middle class. This gap between need and support has created a national access to justice crisis that urgently requires new solutions from courts.

“This project supports Kansas court modernization efforts to better serve court users,” said Stephanie Smith, the Kansas Judicial Branch’s judicial administrator. “Through it, we will increase access to justice by creating a more equitable electronic filing infrastructure for people without an attorney to represent them.”

To learn how technologists can lead justice solutions, the JIF program undertook a six-month design process and interviewed 120 experts in court administration, access to justice and technology. This work culminated in the publication of the Judicial Innovation Roadmap, which found that state, local, tribal and territorial courts are struggling with a lack of funding and key staffing, which cripples innovation efforts. By making technologists accessible to its court partners at no cost, JIF can help courts overcome this key hurdle.

“For most people, navigating a complex and confusing court system can be quite overwhelming,” said Hamilton County General Sessions Judge Alex McVeagh, who also serves as the vice chair of Tennessee’s Access to Justice Commission. “Utilizing the expertise of Ms. Albrecht and the Judicial Innovation Fellowship, we can better use our data to serve both government and public users of our courts, with the ultimate goal of producing a more fair, efficient and transparent justice system.”

The new program is led by Schmidt Innovation Fellow Jason Tashea and Georgetown Law Prof. Tanina Rostain. The Judicial Innovation Fellowship is incubating in the Justice Lab at the Institute for Technology Law & Policy at Georgetown University Law Center. The Justice Lab is devoted to designing and evaluating innovative approaches, including technology-based approaches, to help people understand how the law applies to them and are empowered to solve their legal problems. The Institute for Technology Law & Policy has a mission to close the gap between law, policy, and technology by training students, educating policymakers, and informing the public about the key challenges and opportunities that arise at the intersection of law and technology. Generous funding is made possible by the New Venture Fund, including Schmidt Futures and the Ford Foundation, the Fritz Family Foundation, the State Justice Institute, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Utah Bar Foundation.

The fellowship will run through August 2024.



  • Jason Tashea, JIF Director,
  • Sarah Hoskinson, Director of Access to Justice, Kansas Judicial Branch, 785-581-3989
  • Tania Mashburn, Director of Communications, Utah State Courts, 801-712-4545
  • Shawn Johnson, Chief Administrative Officer, Hamilton County General Sessions Court,
  • Mary Francis Hoots, Director of Communications, Hamilton County Mayor’s Office,