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RSI Staff Attend ABA Section of Dispute Resolution Spring Conference

Nicole Wilmet, April 18th, 2018

Our Executive Director Susan Yates and Director of Research Jennifer Shack had a wonderful time at the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution 20th Annual Spring Conference!

During the Court ADR Symposium, which takes place the first day of the conference, Susan joined Sheila Purcell of UC Hastings College of the Law and Colin Rule of Tyler Technologies on a panel to discuss integrating online dispute resolution with the courts. The session was packed, indicating the level of interest in online dispute resolution among those working in court ADR. Also during the Court Symposium, Susan hosted a court ADR resource share in which individuals working in court ADR discussed the resources they consult to support them in their work. During the main part of the conference, Jen joined the Hon. ​Joyce Kimbler, Diana Ramos-Reardon, Esq., and ​Hon. Richard Altman on a panel to present on ​Ohio’s pilot civil stalking protection order mediation program.

Thank you to the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution for another great conference. Until next year!

(Thank you to our friend John Lande for the photos!)

My Favorite Resource Featuring Debora Denny

Nicole Wilmet, April 2nd, 2018
Last month, we launched our new series My Favorite Resource where we reach out to court ADR friends across the country to learn about their favorite ADR resource. This month, we spoke with Debora Denny, the Director of the Nebraska Office of Dispute Resolution, to learn about her favorite resource.
NW: What is your favorite ADR resource?

DD: Restorative Justice Dialogue: An Essential Guide for Research and Practice, by Mark Umbreit and Marilyn Peterson Amour, with forward by Howard Zehr.

NW: Why do you value this particular resource?

DD:  Nebraska Office of Dispute Resolution (“ODR”) and its six regional ODR-approved mediation centers are implementing a three-year statewide juvenile restorative justice program in what we are calling “Victim Youth Conferencing.” This model is what was formerly called Victim Offender Mediation or Victim Offender Dialogue. Dr. Mark Umbreit and his colleagues from the University of Minnesota Center on Restorative Justice and Peacemaking have been our partners since 2015 on a prior successful VYC pilot. I used this book to help me write the original grant proposal to fund the pilot, as well as to assist me in developing training objectives and policy protocols. It was extremely timely and useful.

NW: How did you first learn about this resource?

DD:  I knew about Dr. Umbreit and his VOM work from the 1990s when he came to Nebraska to teach at the Office of Dispute Resolution and the ODR mediation centers about VOM and Restorative Justice. When I began researching RJ a few years ago, I immediately searched for Dr. Umbreit’s name and found this book.

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

DD: This book contains a spectrum of RJ practices, including, VOM, RJ Dialogue, Family Group Conferencing, Peacemaking Circle, Culture and Spirituality. It contains cited references to research and evidence-based practices that made the difference to funders and justice system administrators who are requiring evidence-based practice.

If you have a favorite resource you would like to share in an upcoming edition of our newsletter, please reach out to our Resource Center Director and Court ADR Connection Editor, Nicole Wilmet at!

Western District of Pennsylvania’s Updates to ADR Policy and Procedures Affect Process for Bringing Sanctions

Nicole Wilmet, March 30th, 2018

In February, the Western District of Pennsylvania released an order to update the court’s ADR policy and procedures, specifically regarding the procedure used for bringing sanctions. This month, the court released a second order with a minor amendment to the February updates.

The impetus behind these changes, as reported in a recent article from the Allegheny County Bar Association Lawyers Journal, stems from an increase in attorneys filing motions for sanctions related to ADR. As the Lawyers Journal explains, a significant amount of the sanctions filed alleged that parties attend mediation in bad faith with no intent to settle or lack the authority to reach an agreement. In response to a call from judges and practitioners to modify the court’s policies, the court’s Case Management/ADR Committee asked Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan to lead an ad hoc subcommittee to propose rule changes to deter motions for sanctions. The changes developed by the ad hoc subcommittee were then instituted by Judge Joy Flowers Conti in the February and March orders.

The largest modification to the court’s policies is the addition of a good faith definition and a new process for bringing motions for sanctions. Under the order, the court defines “good faith” as a “duty of the parties to meet and negotiate with a willingness to reach an agreement.” Additionally, the order mandates that any party who is scheduled for a mediation and either (1) does not intend to make a settlement demand or offer or (2) is waiting for the disposition of a certain motion before settlement discussions must now inform the mediator and the other parties of their intent no later than 15 days before the mediation. Originally, the February order gave the parties 10 days to share this intent with the mediator and other parties but the March order modified and extended this deadline to 15 days.

The most notable modification found under the order is an appendix, which outlines the new process for bringing sanctions and makes the process more arduous. Under the appendix, any party filing a motion for sanctions regarding ADR, must first serve the other party their proposed motion for sanctions. Then the parties have 14 days to discuss and try to resolve the issues raised in the motion. If the parties are able to resolve their issues, nothing further is required. However, if the parties are not able to resolve their issues, then the party filing for sanctions must first file a Notice of Intent to file for sanctions and certificate confirming the parties discussed the motion and were unable to resolve the issues raised. The certificate must also identify whether the parties agree or disagree that resolving the motion will implicate confidential information. Once the party’s Notice of Intent is filed, the court will then schedule a conference in an attempt to resolve the issues before the motion for sanctions is filed.

The court’s full policies and procedures, including these recent updates, can be found here.

My Favorite Resource Featuring Heather Scheiwe Kulp

Nicole Wilmet, March 2nd, 2018

In February, we launched a new section in our Court ADR Connection newsletter entitled My Favorite Resource. My Favorite Resource will feature brief interviews with individuals engaged in the world of alternative dispute resolution to learn what their favorite ADR resource is.

For our inaugural post, our Resource Center Director Nicole Wilmet had the pleasure of reaching out to Heather Scheiwe Kulp, the Alternative Dispute Resolution Coordinator for the Office of Mediation and Arbitration in New Hampshire. Heather is also a former Skadden Fellow and RSI employee. During her time at RSI, Heather authored several resources that you can find here.

NW: What is one of your favorite ADR resources? 

HSK: I frequently turn to Designing Systems and Processes for Managing Disputes, a “textbook” by Nancy H. Rogers, Robert C. Bordone, Frank E. A. Sander, and Craig A. McEwen. It’s much more than a textbook, really, as it has a comprehensive method for planning, designing, implementing, and evaluating dispute systems. So, I’ve found the resource translates easily between my multiple “hats,” whether I’m wearing my trainer hat, academic/professor hat, designer hat, or evaluator hat.

NW: Why do you value this particular resource? 

HSK: It is written in a conversational, rather than high-brow, style, yet it is packed with data and additional citations. So, practitioners and academics alike can get what they need from it. I particularly appreciate that the authors start with theory and move to practical recommendations for how to implement best practices. It also includes really helpful case studies, showing you how actual people can do—and successfully have done—what they recommend.

NW: How did you first learn about this resource?

HSK: I was on faculty with one of the authors, Robert Bordone, at the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program. There, we implemented the design steps from this text in our clinic projects. We lived this material, and it was helpful to see how it played out in practice.

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

HSK: The case studies are great examples of how DSD (Dispute System Design) principles can be tailored to address a variety of challenges, from international peacemaking efforts to online consumer disputes. It also makes DSD seem accessible; with this text, you feel like you could actually begin helping an organization, country, or societal system you care about manage conflict better.

Do you have a favorite ADR resource you would like to share? If so, please reach out to our Resource Center Director Nicole Wilmet at!


A Look Back on 2017

Nicole Wilmet, December 27th, 2017

What a wonderful year 2017 has been! From court program evaluations and trainings to staff gatherings, we have had an exciting year and continued to make great strides in serving communities with court alternative dispute resolution!

One of the greatest highlights from this year was the launch of our new website,! The launch of our new site brought together our two previous sites and to become a one-stop shop for all things ADR. Our updated Resource Center allows for quick and easy searches for court ADR resources in our Research Library, and provides summaries of Court ADR Across Illinois and Court ADR Across the US. Additionally, the launch of our new website also brought the release of our Guide to Program Success, a how-to guide on court ADR program design, management, and evaluation. We look forward to continuing to share and add new resources to our Resource Center in 2018!

This year, our staff continued to bring RSI’s expertise to communities across the U.S. Here in Illinois, our program coordinators ran successful Foreclosure Mediation programs in Lake, Winnebago, Boone, and Kane Counties. We also launched our Child Protection Mediation program in Kane County, addressing cases involving abuse and neglect. Outside of Illinois, our Executive Director Susan Yates and Kane County Mediation Programs Manager Kevin Malone traveled to San Francisco for the American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution Conference! Additionally, this year, Susan traveled to Georgia and New Hampshire to lead a training for court ADR program administrators and provide training for state and federal court mediators and lawyers.

2017 was also a busy and exciting year for our Director of Research, Jennifer Shack, who spent the year engaged in several research and evaluation projects. This year, Jen lead an evaluation of Washington, D.C. Court’s child protection mediation program, an evaluation of a pilot program in Ohio that will use mediation for civil stalking cases, and an evaluation of the Supreme Court of Ohio Dispute Resolution Section’s The Right Track Project, a pilot program to address truancy problems. Want to have Jen help evaluate your court’s program in 2018? Click here to learn more!

Last but certainly not least, our Board members were also recognized for their work in ADR this year! In April, long-serving RSI Board member James J. Alfini was awarded the American Bar Association Chair’s Award for Outstanding Service to the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution!

As we finish this month we are thankful for a wonderful 2017 and are looking forward to 2018!

Happy New Year From All of Us Here at RSI!