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Just Court ADR

The blog of Resolution Systems Institute

Holidays. Gratitude. Hoping. Giving.

Susan M. Yates, December 12th, 2018

Popular American culture portrays the year-end holiday season as a special time for friends and family to gather. Over the years I have also seen that this time of year can bring a mixed bag of feelings. That certainly is the case at RSI! Here is some of what we are feeling as the year comes to a close.

EXCITED

RSI is dreaming big. We are developing an online dispute resolution process that will help parents work out how they will co-parent after they split up. We are encouraging more courts to tap into our deep well of research and evaluation expertise to improve their ADR programs. And we are working to increase the use of mediation when children who have been neglected are removed from their homes.

PROUD

One thing we are especially proud of is the work we have done and continue to do on foreclosure mediation. Our programs have helped to save more than 750 homes, we have completed the two most comprehensive evaluations of foreclosure ever conducted and all three of our programs are continuing with support from their courts after funding from the Illinois Attorney General ended August 31, 2018.

ANXIOUS

The end of that five-year grant from the Attorney General has added a certain sense of anxiety to our holiday cheer! We are facing the challenge of finding new financial support to continue working on our mission of strengthening access to justice through quality court ADR.

HOPEFUL

As we look forward to 2019, I am hopeful. Maybe that is because hopefulness is a job requirement for any non-profit executive director! But more than that, I see opportunities to make real differences in the lives of people who turn to the courts for civil justice.

GRATEFUL

I am personally so grateful to everyone who is part of RSI’s work. We have a dedicated Board and an amazing staff. We appreciate and are appreciated by the courts with whom we work. We know we can rely on skilled mediators and they, in turn, are appreciated by the parties they serve. We are supported financially by generous individuals, corporations, law firms, bar associations, courts and foundations. For all this, I am extremely grateful.

Whatever you are feeling during this holiday season, I hope that you share RSI’s desire to make justice more accessible through ADR. With your support, we can give voice to people when they need it most.

Please consider making a contribution to RSI, online at https://www.mightycause.com/organization/Resolution-Systems-Institute or by sending your check to RSI at 11 East Adams St., Suite 500, Chicago, IL 60603. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, so your contribution can be tax-deductible.

Thank you for supporting RSI’s mission to improve access to justice by enhancing court ADR.

The Twelve Hours of Conflict

Susan M. Yates, December 10th, 2018

In what has become a holiday tradition here at RSI, here is our annual posting of the The Twelve Hours of Conflict. Happy holidays!

For the first hour of conflict, my neutral gave to me a round table with a great view

For the second hour of conflict, my neutral gave to me two succinct summaries
And a round table with a great view

For the third hour of conflict, my neutral gave to me three paraphrases
Two succinct summaries
And a round table with a great view

For the fourth hour of conflict, my neutral gave to me four mirrored feelings
Three paraphrases
Two succinct summaries
And a round table with a great view

For the fifth hour of conflict, my neutral gave to me five as-pir-in
Four mirrored feelings
Three paraphrases
Two succinct summaries
And a round table with a great view

For the sixth hour of conflict, my neutral gave to me six tested realities
Five aspirin
Four mirrored feelings
Three paraphrases
Two succinct summaries
And a round table with a great view

For the seventh hour of conflict, my neutral gave to me seven caucuses
Six tested reality
Five aspirin
Four mirrored feelings
Three paraphrases
Two succinct summaries
And a round table with a great view

For the eighth hour of conflict, my neutral gave to me eight explored BATNAs
Seven caucuses
Six tested reality
Five aspirin
Four mirrored feelings
Three paraphrases
Two succinct summaries
And a round table with a great view

For the ninth hour of conflict, my neutral gave to me nine fresh perspectives
Eight explored BATNAs
Seven caucuses
Six tested reality
Five aspirin
Four mirrored feelings
Three paraphrases
Two succinct summaries
And a round table with a great view

For the tenth hour of conflict, my neutral gave to me ten brainstorms
Nine fresh perspectives
Eight explored BATNAs
Seven caucuses
Six tested reality
Five aspirin
Four mirrored feelings
Three paraphrases
Two succinct summaries
And a round table with a great view

For the eleventh hour of conflict, my neutral gave to me eleven cookie breaks
Ten brainstorms
Nine fresh perspectives
Eight explored BATNAs
Seven caucuses
Six tested reality
Five aspirin
Four mirrored feelings
Three paraphrases
Two succinct summaries
And a round table with a great view

For the twelfth hour of conflict, my neutral gave to me twelve resolved issues
Eleven cookie breaks
Ten brainstorms
Nine fresh perspectives
Eight explored BATNAs
Seven caucuses
Six tested reality
Five aspirin
Four mirrored feelings
Three paraphrases
Two succinct summaries
And a round table with a great view

Have a great New Year!

Findings from an Evaluation of Eight Foreclosure Mediation Programs

Jennifer Shack, December 5th, 2018

As I mentioned last month, I recently completed a comprehensive evaluation of eight foreclosure mediation programs in Illinois. One great benefit of evaluating eight programs with different approaches to resolving the same cases is that it allowed me to uncover program design factors and other variables that promote program success. The three big takeaways from the evaluation are that proper program design is essential, provision of services has an impact on homeowner outcomes, and data is crucial to program improvement. The evaluation was a final look at the eight programs that were funded by the Illinois Attorney General, encompassing up to four years for each program. Seven of the eight programs used relatively uniform data that was collected on the same online case management system. Further, I worked with each program to define the variables used so that we had a clear understanding of the meaning of each variable. This allowed me to develop uniform measures for the programs that enabled comparisons of program performance across them.

First, some basic findings. The eight programs helped 4,766 homeowners, representing 23% of all foreclosure filings in their jurisdictions. They saved 1,100 homes. Once homeowners entered the programs, 21% to 40% saved their homes, depending on the program. More than 90% of homeowners who completed surveys said that they gained a better understanding of their options and how to work with their lenders. Almost all homeowners felt that they were treated fairly and with respect. Most felt that they were able to talk about the issues and concerns that were most important to them and almost all felt the mediator understood what was important to them. Most were satisfied with their experience.

Now to the takeaways. Program design played a significant role in how many homeowners a program was able to help and how many homeowners participated in the program. The two variables are different because most programs helped homeowners to understand their options and the foreclosure process, even if they could not or decided not to participate. Those programs that told homeowners that they must appear for their initial session and provided a date and time for that had significantly higher proportions of homeowners appear and participate than programs that had them contact the program in other ways. And those programs that told homeowners they had to call the program coordinator, provided a deadline to do so and sent additional reminders had significantly higher proportions of homeowners contact the program and participate than those programs that informed the homeowners of the program and told them how to start the process to participate.

Participation rate is very important, not just because higher participation means that more homeowners are helped. The greater the proportion of homeowners facing foreclosure who participate in the program, the greater the proportion of homeowners who save their homes.

Other aspects matter as well. Having the homeowners meet with a representative for their lender from the outset appears to improve program completion rates and possibly improves the probability that participating homeowners save their homes. Within individual programs, those homeowners who worked with a housing counselor are more likely to complete the program. Those who worked with attorneys were much more likely to complete the program. Interestingly, they weren’t more likely to save their homes.

It was very gratifying to see that those programs that made changes based on the data they were collecting and the recommendations from my first evaluation were improved by those changes. For example, the 19th Circuit and 20th Circuit programs made changes to the manner in which homeowners contacted and entered the program, significantly improving participation. The 16thand 19th Circuits worked with mediators to improve their skills, leading to fewer mediator issues and more participants leaving mediation with a good experience.

For a quick take on the evaluation, see the Executive Summary.
To access a digital summary of the evaluation, click here.
For the Full Evaluation, download PDF.

My Favorite Resource Featuring Renee Salmon

Nicole Wilmet, December 4th, 2018

Our series, My Favorite Resource, features interviews with our court ADR friends across the country to learn about their favorite resource. This month, Resource Center Director Nicole Wilmet spoke with Renee Salmon, Legal Assistant for the Minnesota Judicial Branch Alternative Dispute Resolution Program to learn about her favorite resource.

NW: What is one of your favorite ADR resources?

RS: My favorite resource is the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts website www.afccnet.org.

NW: Why do you value this particular resource?

RS:  I value this resource for three reasons:

  1. The links are almost always up-to-date and relevant. The resources contained on this site involve primarily family law ADR. It is a centralized place to go for guidelines, best practices, news and updates in ADR nationwide.
  2. You do not have to be a member in order to access the links and resources on this site.
  3. The resources on this website are applicable and relevant for both the public and ADR professionals.

NW: How did you first learn about resource?

RS: I can’t remember exactly. I believe I stumbled upon it while researching ADR online. I was already familiar with the association, but was not aware of the vast amounts of helpful resources and articles posted on its site.

NW: For those unfamiliar with this resource, what is one part of this resource that you wouldn’t want someone to miss?

RS: The tab on the top of the site called “Resource Center”. You will find relevant and up-to-date practice guidelines and standards and resources for both ADR professionals and families in one spot. I have this site in my favorites to refer to when gaining understanding all the flavors of ADR processes used in family law nationwide.

If you have a favorite resource you would like to share, please reach out to our Resource Center Director and Court ADR Connection Editor, Nicole Wilmet at nwilmet@aboutrsi.org!

Utah Small Claims Court Launches New Online Dispute Resolution Pilot Program

Nicole Wilmet, December 3rd, 2018

In September, the Utah Supreme Court initiated an online dispute resolution (“ODR”) pilot program. The pilot program, which is housed at Utah’s West Valley City Justice Court, handles the court’s small claims cases. In its standing order announcing the program, the Utah Supreme Court says it believes that the new pilot program “will increase the participation rate of parties, assist the parties in resolving their disputes, and improve the quality and presentation of evidence at trial in those matters that cannot be resolved.”

Under the new program, plaintiffs must now either register for the court’s new ODR system within seven days of filing their claim or file a request for exemption from ODR. After being served with a claim, defendants will have fourteen days to either register for an ODR account or seek an exemption from participating in ODR. Parties will only be excused from participating in the ODR program for undue hardships. The court notes that undue hardships exist when parties are unable to access the online system without substantial difficulty or expense.

Parties utilizing the ODR system will work with a facilitator who will guide the parties through the ODR process and assist them in reaching a settlement. Facilitators will inform the parties of the process to be followed, the types of communications that parties may use, and establish timelines for the parties. Additionally, facilitators may request that the parties provide information and evidence about the merits of the case, their ability to pay, responses to the other party’s information, and their position on any proposed resolution of the plaintiff’s claim. Facilitators are also able to communicate privately with any party, at any time, for the purposes of facilitating a resolution.

Should the parties reach a settlement, they then may request their facilitator to prepare their online settlement agreement form, which will detail the terms of their agreement. Once completed, the court will enter the judgement. In the event that the parties are unable to reach a settlement, the facilitator will notify the court and the court will schedule a trial date for the parties. More information about the pilot program, including access to the court’s forms, may be found here.