Resources / Study / Innovation for Court ADR

Just Court ADR

The blog of Resolution Systems Institute

Author Archive

Introducing RSI’s Special Topic on Online Dispute Resolution!

Eric Slepak-Cherney, April 26th, 2019

We are excited to introduce our new Special Topic on Online Dispute Resolution (ODR)! With courts across the country exploring ODR at a rapid pace, we sought to develop a resource that would help provide thoughtful context and guidance on how court administrators and stakeholders should approach the intersection of technology and dispute resolution. Containing a history of ODR, considerations for courts and links to other helpful resources, we hope you will find this new content enlightening and will excite you for the future of delivering justice through online dispute resolution.

Saving Homes, Building Understanding

Eric Slepak-Cherney, November 29th, 2018

Resolution Systems Institute is proud to share its latest publication, Saving Homes, Building Understanding: An Evaluation of the Eight Foreclosure Mediation Programs Funded by the Illinois Attorney General. This new evaluation looks at four-plus years of data across eight different programs to provide a comprehensive analysis of foreclosure mediation in Illinois, and to highlight how differences in program models impacted outcomes. (more…)

RSI Hosts Child Protection Mediator Training for Kane County Program

Eric Slepak-Cherney, October 31st, 2018

About eighteen months ago, we trained our first cohort of volunteer neutrals to co-mediate child protection cases in our newest court program. That training was the culmination of nearly two years of program development, in which we developed court rules and program procedures, and brought together stakeholders all in service of a shared vision to offer stability to vulnerable children. Since then, the program has assisted in over two dozen cases, providing a forum for over 150 family members, social workers, GALs and others to work out the roadblocks facing them.

On September 29-30, we trained our second cohort. Though a smaller group than the original, we are astounded at the depth of experiences they bring to the Kane County, Illinois Child Protection Mediation Program. Their backgrounds include running law, mediation and coaching practices, as well as serving in the State’s Attorney’s office. Given these cases often come loaded with emotional firepower and complex interpersonal dynamics, it is a real boon to have such accomplished neutrals with a real diversity of experience.

When we did our last training, I wrote up my takeaways, and thankfully, those lessons held up well! One other lesson we learned from surveys administered following the last training was that people left feeling apprehensive about how prepared they were to mediate these cases. Some part of that apprehension in unavoidable – we were asking our volunteers to step into a brand new program to mediate emotionally fraught, multi-party cases that few neutrals ever have the opportunity to mediate! To the extent we were able to, this time around, we as the trainers addressed that fear more directly: naming it, validating it, sharing stories about times we failed and how we rebounded.

I think we in the ADR field have an archetype of the ideal neutral as someone who confidently controls the room and the process. There’s good reason to hold that standard up, but we also have to remember it takes time, experience and at least some failure to reach that level. If our most recent training reassured our mediators of that so they can more confidently go forward and serve these families, I’m content to call it a success.

A huge thank you to our trainers Stephanie Senuta, Kevin Malone and Susan Yates. We are grateful to the Court Improvement Program and the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts for providing the funding to put on this training*,  and to the 16th Judicial Circuit Court of Kane County, Illinois and Flavors of North America International for furnishing the space for this training.

*In September 2015, the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation awarded Resolution Systems Institute $40,000 to develop the pilot Child Protection Mediation Program in conjunction with the 16th Judicial Circuit Court of Illinois in Kane County. That funding was supplemented in July 2016, when the Illinois Bar Foundation awarded RSI $5,000 to support the program’s mediators. Most recently, for the 2018 fiscal year, RSI has been awarded $40,000 from the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts’ State Court Improvement Program. Overall, $40,000 of the Kane County Child Protection Mediation Program’s.

Trainer Stephanie Senuta and Kane County Mediation Programs Manager Kevin Malone leading a session during the September training.

New Tools for Mediator Peer Review

Eric Slepak-Cherney, July 20th, 2018

I’m excited to share with you all a new resource RSI put together for court ADR programs. Curiosity and self-reflection tend to be self-selecting criterion for successful mediators, so it’s not surprising that mediators often crave feedback about their performance and how they can improve. Fortunately for courts, that’s a great instinct, and one that should be nurtured through the use of a structured process whenever possible. To these ends, we at RSI put together some tools for program administrators to utilize in developing a peer-based review support system.

Peer review is a great way for mediators to develop new skills: as long as proper oversight exists to make sure bad habits aren’t proliferating, mediators can learn a tremendous amount from one another. Implementing a peer review system also has the added benefit of galvanizing a community of mediators. Perhaps most beneficially, peer review can function as quality assurance to ensure that the services people receive aren’t a form of second-class justice. Programs that serve self-represented, indigent and other underserved populations may be particularly keen to ensure quality services. (more…)

Foreclosure Mediation Saves 1,000 Homes in Illinois

Eric Slepak-Cherney, June 1st, 2018

In compiling the latest statistical report for the eight foreclosure mediation programs funded by the Illinois Attorney General, RSI discovered that, as of last year, the programs helped over 1,000 Illinois homeowners stay in their homes. That’s a tremendous accomplishment and much is owed to the talented program staff that administer these programs, the neutrals who mediate these cases, the housing counselors and legal aid attorneys who advise the homeowners, and the Office of the Attorney General whose belief in the power of mediation made this all possible.

About a quarter of the cases, and 5% of the total foreclosure filings, end in retention. While that might not sound like much, it’s worth bearing in mind that in many instances, there is a significant power imbalance between the homeowner and their lender. That fact makes it quite possible that without the guidance provided by the housing counselors and attorneys, and the channels of dialogue between borrower and lender opened by the program staff and mediators, these homeowners would have very little chance of prevailing in the traditional judicial foreclosure process. Therefore, a retention rate of that magnitude is a tremendous victory. (more…)