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Just Court ADR

The blog of Resolution Systems Institute

Child Protection Perspectives: Initiating the Conversation

Eric Slepak, April 15th, 2016

As April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, we at RSI wanted to shine some attention on the work we are doing related to the development of the new Child Protection Mediation Program in the Sixteenth Judicial Circuit Court of Kane County, Illinois, as well as the other work RSI has done in using court ADR as a tool to address the issues of child abuse and neglect.

While our work at RSI is often about data, when it comes to child protection (a term which is meant to capture the broad array of cases in which children have been removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect), it is hard not to talk about the personal element.  Prior to joining RSI, much of my work had been as an advocate at the intersections of special education, juvenile justice and the child welfare and foster systems. These seemingly independent worlds actually collide frequently, and illustrate some of the many complexities involved in handling cases of child abuse and neglect. Read the rest of this entry »

Model Mediation Surveys Are Now Available

Jennifer Shack, April 6th, 2016

I’m so happy to introduce the Model Surveys, a toolkit that enables court-connected mediation programs to obtain reliable data. The toolkit includes post-mediation surveys for parties, attorneys and mediators, as well as a mediator report. The surveys are all annotated, with explanations for the rationale for each question and discussion of the wording. The toolkit is rounded out with advice on how to use and modify the surveys.

The whole idea behind the project is that courts and their associated programs often don’t have the necessary resources to obtain good information about program functioning. In RSI’s experience, the courts’ biggest need was for well-designed participant surveys and set out to develop them in collaboration with the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution and with the help of a fantastic group of nationally-known experts in ADR research and program administration. Read the rest of this entry »

Designing Access Part Two: “Dynamic Triage” in RSI’s Foreclosure Mediation Program in Rockford, Illinois

Hanna Kaufman, March 15th, 2016

Welcome back to my series of blog posts showcasing how RSI uses our expertise in dispute system design to improve access to justice in the three foreclosure mediation programs we administer. If you’re wondering how this series came to be, check out my introduction to the series. In my previous entry, I discussed how we at RSI leveraged the data we collected to improve participation in our foreclosure mediation program in the 19th Circuit Court of Lake County, Illinois. By looking at “apples-to-apples” comparison of data among six programs in Illinois, we saw participation went up when judges referred people to the program, and when we only required people to complete a phone screening rather than an in-person information session. The 19th Circuit made these changes, and while it has only been a couple of months since that happened, we are already starting to see more people being able to access the program.

Building off that previous discussion about using data to drive program improvements, my focus in this entry is a different tool in the program administration toolbox: thoughtful, dynamic triage. Read the rest of this entry »

Foreclosure Mediation Still Going Strong in Illinois

Jennifer Shack, March 4th, 2016

In the last two years, the six programs currently funded by the Office of the Illinois Attorney General have helped 476 homeowners save their homes. Almost 100 more relinquished their homes voluntarily, allowing them to make a fresh start. Combined, this means that the programs helped about 1/3 of participating homeowners – and their communities – to avoid the negative consequences of foreclosure. Read the rest of this entry »

In Mediation, As On Broadway, It’s All About The Room Where It Happens

Eric Slepak, February 26th, 2016

If you caught the Grammys last week, I hope you got a glimpse of the live-from-Broadway performance of the opening number from the smash hit Hamilton. One of the show’s many highlights, “In the Room Where It Happens,” is a show-stopping ode to backroom negotiation and the art of compromise that focuses on New York Senator Aaron Burr’s desire to get to the table. Though Burr serves as the foil to protagonist Alexander Hamilton and (spoiler alert) the source of Hamilton’s ultimate defeat, he is not an unsympathetic character; there are many moments throughout where the audience empathizes with Burr’s dreams. Case in point, Burr’s goal of being part of the action mirrors a recurring theme we see parties deal with in ADR: who gets a say in the matter when there are lots of parties involved and/or many different interests at stake?  In other words, who gets to be in the room where it happens? Read the rest of this entry »