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Rate My Judge
La Defensa

Time to judge the judge

LA County has the highest incarceration rate in the nation. La Defensa, a group of local leaders in LA’s decarceration movement, came to Swell with a vision to provide a public resource to increase knowledge and transparency in Los Angeles’ judicial system.

Rate My Judge – The Challenge

1 — The Challenge

Bringing transparency to an opaque judicial system

Rate My Judge is a platform that allows community members, practitioners, and public defenders to anonymously review their experiences with Los Angeles County judges—a major step forward to increase accountability in our legal system.

Prior to Rate My Judge, no substantive public oversight of elected judges existed. Swell designed and built a never-before-seen platform that would encourage easy adoption, motivate engagement, provide education to the masses, offer accessibility to those without a computer, and launch well before the 2022 superior court election cycle.

Rate My Judge – The Brand

2 — The Brand

Visualizing community power

Rate My Judge is powered by La Defensa, “a broad anti-racist, feminist, and anti-capitalist movement led by the people most impacted by criminalization, economic injustice, and other forms of state control in LA County”. For the RTJ website, we wanted to create a UI kit that would build on the colors and concepts behind La Defensa while making sure it could stand on its own for folks who weren’t familiar with the organization’s work.

Brand Identity — Rate My Judge is a platform for everyone to share their experiences with the justice system. To make sure the platform was easy to use and function-forward, we created a sleek and friendly identity that is flexible and clean.

Rate My Judge – The Platform

3 — The Platform

Judging justice

The first step to create a user-friendly, truly accessible platform was defining the criteria for the judges’ evaluations that would foster transparency and accountability, while also developing language easily accessible and culturally competent for all audiences. Ultimately, Swell and La Defensa landed on five criteria factors––demeanor, harshness, bias, fairness, and lawfulness––that would utilize a sliding scale to streamline engagement and boost participation.

Knowing that this project would only be successful as an interactive community-powered tool, we incorporated a robust User Experience (UX) design process that thoughtfully mapped different user journeys and navigational flows with the intention of seamlessly leading users to an action, most notably leaving a review.

Website Design — The desktop web experience is split into a two-column system with input and filtering on the left, and results on the right. This makes the platform easy to use and builds off of the screens and patterns that were created for the mobile site.

Effortlessly up-to-date

Accurate data is the cornerstone of any tool designed to inform the public, serving as the bedrock upon which informed decisions are made. To account for the judicial turnover due to retirements, elections, and attrition, we created an infrastructure that allows La Defensa to regularly and seamlessly import and update the judicial dataset with the most recent information because, well, accuracy and reliability are key drivers of accountability.

Rate My Judge – The Impact

4 — The Impact

Power to the people

The intention of Rate My Judge is not only to bring accountability to judicial behavior, but to ultimately elect progressive candidates who advance criminal justice reform efforts in our communities. By providing greater transparency and accessibility of a superior court judge’s legal, moral, and ethical standing in the community, we are supporting a more informed electorate. To say it another way— putting power back with the people. And we’re already seeing it being used for judicial accountability in LA County.

While the current platform covers the Los Angeles county jurisdiction, our goal moving forward is to increase reach and shine a spotlight on elected judges across the country.

Case Studies

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