December 22, 2017

The Problem of Default Part II Historical Data

Below are four graphs detailing data we collected and analyzed from several courts in 2016, the year before we began our Part II study. Part II randomizes subjects to one of many different possible treatments but does not have a control group that tells us the baseline rate. These data help to provide some general context.

The graphs present data collected in five courts: Boston Municipal Court (BMC) Small Claims, Cambridge Small Claims, Quincy Small Claims, Worcester Small Claims, and Boston Municipal Court, Civil. They all measure the proportion of cases where the defendant appeared (or failed to appear) at either the first or any scheduled hearings related to their case. The size of the representative dots depicts the relative proportion of the number of cases included to the total number of cases in the sample (the “n” number).

One variable is whether or not a hearing for a case was scheduled on a Lawyer for the Day (LFD) program day. The Massachusetts Lawyer for the Day program is a pro bono legal service that provides some pro-se advising services in some courts on certain days of the week. Exact services and availability varies between courts. Another is whether a defendant fails to appear (FTAs) at a given hearing

Study-eligible cases are consumer debt cases involving a non-individual plaintiff and individual defendant. Examples include a debt buyer suing a person for a debt, an original creditor like a bank or credit card company suing a person for money allegedly owed, and an insurance company suing a person for a debt.

Study ineligible cases are all other cases. Examples include a person suing a person, an auto repair shop suing a person, an individual doctor suing a person, a taxi cab company suing a person, and a landscaping company suing a person.

The graphs break down data between these two variables at different courts in four different ways:

  • If a defendant ever failed to appear (FTA’d) at any hearing that was held
  • If a defendant failed to appear at their first hearing that was held
  • If any of the defendant’s scheduled hearings were scheduled on a day when the LFD program was happening at the court and the defendant appeared at one or more such scheduled hearings
  • If the defendant’s first scheduled hearing was scheduled on a day when the Lawyer for the Day (LFD) program was happening at the court and the defendant appeared at that scheduled hearing