DURHAM – As global protests over racism and police brutality in the United States continue, a black-owned Durham startup is stepping up to help people find justice in the courts.

Enter CourtRoom5, founded by former professors Sonja Ebron and Debra Slone. Launched in 2017 as an educational site, it has grown into full-fledged case management platform.

Created for people without lawyers, the site offers a step-by-step “legal toolbox” for handling your own civil case.

“We want to help our customers make their best case in court,” Ebron said. “Most people who represent themselves are opposed by a lawyer, and it’s not a fair fight. We’ve both been really beat up by lawyers in court, often assisted by the lawyer judging the case. It makes you feel worthless, like the system thinks nothing of those who can’t afford a lawyer.”

Courtroom5 founders Sonja Ebron and Debra Slone

Courtroom5 wants to end all that.

Ebron said it seeks to democratize the courts so people don’t have to spend tens of thousands of hard-earned dollars just to be heard in court: “We both learned to represent ourselves the hard way — by losing a lot — and committed ourselves to helping others succeed without those losses.”

The startup is gaining some traction.

It recently earned $120,000 in investment and a coveted spot in the Techstars Kansas City Accelerator, a 13-week program that provides access to funding, industry mentors and potential venture capital investors. The firm also won the Black Founders Exchange Demo Day competition last November.

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These successes, however, come at a charged time for the country. Public outrage persists over the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police two weeks ago. That event triggered global protests culminating with President Donald Trump signing an executive order for several police reforms earlier this week.

Ebron said, now more than ever, people need to feel that they can get a fair shake in the legal system.

“No justice, no peace. It’s not just a slogan,” she said. “Justice is fundamental to a civilized society, and yet we live in a fundamentally unjust society. If people can’t find justice in the courts –  the institution set up to deliver justice – then they will find it in the streets, to the detriment of us all.”

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