Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Citation

121 Penn State Law Review 745 (2017)


This Article introduces a novel approach to improving the civil justice system, referred to as human-centered civil justice design. The approach synthesizes insights and practices from two interdisciplinary strands: human-centered design thinking and dispute system design. The approach is rooted in human experiences with the processes, systems, people, and environments that members of the public encounter when navigating the civil justice system and how these experiences interact with the entangled web of hardships and legal adversities they face in the everyday.

Human-centered civil justice designers empathize with the intended beneficiaries and stakeholders of the civil justice system, seeking to deeply understand those served and to partner with these communities to create innovative solutions stemming from people's actual needs, concerns, and experiences. Civil justice designers develop this understanding by engaging in perspective-taking through immersion, interviews, observation, and, more generally, empirical and psychological inquiry. They seek to understand stakeholders' perspectives and experiences before narrowing and identifying the civil justice problems to be solved. These designers ideate and brainstorm a range of desirable human-centered solutions before winnowing them down based on feasibility and financial viability.

Human-centered civil justice design harnesses psychological and behavioral science to understand how members of the public experience the civil justice system and their encounters with legal officials. The public's needs, aspirations, concerns, and experiences of justice are the root of human-centered civil justice design.

Throughout this process, designers harness pilots to develop insight from stakeholders on the causes, conditions, and nature of civil justice problems. These pilots are empirically tested with randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to explore their system-wide effects before interventions are adopted. The approach accommodates the reality of a dynamic civil justice system that seeks to promote diverse process values that are at times in tension, such as efficiency and promoting human dignity.

After introducing human-centered civil justice design, the Article applies this approach by first evaluating the design process by which the 2015 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were developed and then discussing implications for civil procedure rulemaking and managerial judging.