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RSI Evaluating Online Dispute Resolution

Just Court ADR, January 30th, 2020

Resolution Systems Institute is pleased to announce that we are partnering with the University of California, Davis, (UC Davis) and The Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew) to evaluate certain small claims court online dispute resolution (ODR) programs in Hawaii and Texas. These programs enable parties involved in small claims matters to negotiate online and, if needed, receive online mediation services to attempt to resolve their case. These programs could eliminate the need for some parties to appear in physical courthouses.

This evaluation examines the impact of ODR on litigants and courts. For litigants, the focus will be on access to justice, with an eye toward determining whether certain groups in society tend to experience the benefits or costs associated with ODR more than others. To that end, the study will explore, among other questions, whether ODR reduces the time stress on parties; affects case outcomes; improves litigants’ use of court procedures and navigation of court rules; and increases users’ sense of procedural fairness. The study will also look at the effect ODR has on court efficiency, such as time from filing to resolution, the number of hearings held and staff time spent per case.

ODR is increasingly being adopted by courts in the United States, but there have not been neutral, empirical studies before this evaluation and other concurrent evaluations in partnership with Pew. An initial report is expected in mid-2021.

“We are excited for this opportunity to bring rigorous empirical research to the nascent field of court ODR,” said Susan M. Yates, RSI Executive Director. “While we are hopeful that ODR can improve access to justice, we will await the results to see what we learn.”

Resolution Systems Institute’s principal investigator for the project is Jennifer Shack, Director of Research, the go-to evaluator for court ADR in the US. The principal investigator for the overall project is Dr. Donna Shestowsky of the UC Davis School of Law; she is a nationally recognized scholar in alternative dispute resolution.

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