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Nevada Foreclosure Mediation Program to Use HLP Online Portal to Administer Program

Nicole Wilmet, June 29th, 2018

In August, we reported that the Nevada legislature revived the state’s foreclosure mediation program by passing Senate Bill 490. One of the most notable changes Senate Bill 490 brought to the program included the transfer of program management duties from the Nevada Supreme Court to the Nevada District Courts and Home Means Nevada, Inc., a state affiliated non-profit that was created to address challenges and needs of distressed homeowners. As Home Means Nevada describes, under this new structure when an individual receives notice of default, they will then petition the District Court to participate in mediation. The District Court will then assign a mediator to mediate the case and Home Means Nevada will work closely with the courts and mediators to ensure a successful program.

This month, Home Means Nevada announced that it has selected Hope LoanPort’s® (HLP) web-based platform as the designated channel to administer the program. Founded in 2009, HLP was initially created to help solve the foreclosure crisis by developing a web portal where non-profit credit counseling agencies, attorneys and homeowners could apply for a loan modification or other solution. Today, the HLP platform has become a one-stop shop for homeowners nationwide to send documents to their mortgage companies. As Business Wire reports, the HLP portal will be the designated channel through which Home Means Nevada will administer the foreclosure program. As United Trustees Association reports, the HLP portal will streamline the document sharing process and will afford parties the opportunity to see and receive updates for their case in real time.

The HLP platform will be implemented in several stages with the first phase scheduled to launch July 1, 2018. The HLP Nevada Foreclosure Mediation page can be accessed here and contains updates, information on registering, and access to HLP platform training for counselors, servicers, and attorneys.

Virginia Appellate Courts to Launch Pilot Mediation Program

Nicole Wilmet, June 28th, 2018

This month, the Supreme Court of Virginia and the Court of Appeals of Virginia released a press release announcing the launch of a two-year pilot appellate court mediation program that will begin on January 1, 2019. The mediation program will only be available in select civil cases where both parties are represented by legal counsel. Additionally, in the Court of Appeals, mediation will be available for equitable distribution and/or related attorneys fee disputes. Mediation will also be available for Supreme Court cases where a petition for appeal has been granted. In both courts, the Clerk of each court will notify counsel that, if both parties agree to mediate, there will be an automatic stay of proceedings for 30 days to allow for mediations to occur.

The genesis behind the pilot program stems from recommendations made by the Special Committee to Study Appellate Mediation in Virginia. In 2017, the Special Committee was created at the request of Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons, the Joint Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee of the Virginia State Bar (“VSB”), and the Virginia Bar Association (“VBA”). Members of the Special Committee included representatives from both appellate courts, appellate litigation representatives from the VSB and the VBA, leaders from the Joint ADR Committee and the Dispute Resolution Services Manager from the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia.

In addition to recommending the creation of the pilot program, the Special Committee also recommended a new level of certification for appellate mediators during the pilot projects. The request for a new level of certification will be presented to the judicial council for adoption later this year. The full report from the Special Committee can be found here.

My Favorite Resource Featuring Missy Greathouse

Nicole Wilmet, June 7th, 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 Missy Greathouse, the Executive Director of Dispute Resolution Institute to learn about her favorite ADR Resource.

NW: What is one of your favorite ADR resources?

MG: Other than RSI’s website and newsletter (my number one favorite resources), my current favorite ADR resource is the newsletter of the Illinois State Bar Association’s Section on Alternative Dispute Resolution – In the Alternative.

NW: Why do you value this particular resource?

MG: On average there are six newsletters released a year, with updates on cases, ADR news and articles on topics of interest to those of us in ADR. I appreciate the information that is Illinois specific, but especially appreciate the opportunity to learn what is going on around the country.

NW: How did you first learn about this resource?

MG: When I joined the ISBA years ago, I learned about the newsletter when I signed up for the section. In addition, I have had the privilege of serving on the ISBA ADR Section Council for the last few years and have been able to see the work our editor puts into the newsletter along with the help of students from North Central College.

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

MG: I would definitely recommend the case briefs section to ensure you’re updated on the latest cases and how the ruling may affect our practice as ADR practitioners.

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 nwilmet@aboutrsi.org!

Rhode Island and Connecticut May Soon Be Without Foreclosure Mediation Policies if Legislature Intervention is Unsuccessful

Nicole Wilmet, June 6th, 2018

The future of both Rhode Island and Connecticut’s foreclosure mediation policies are currently in the hands of their respective state legislatures. Both states have sunset provisions looming on the horizon with the Rhode Island Foreclosure Mediation Act set to end on July 1, 2018 and Connecticut’s foreclosure mediation program set to end June 30, 2019.

Enacted in 2013, the Rhode Island’s Foreclosure Mediation Act grants homeowners who face foreclosure the opportunity to meet with their lender and an independent mediator to try to work out a solution to avoid foreclosure. According to the Providence Journal, since 2013 the Foreclosure Mediation Act has helped 679 families stay in their homes. In an effort to keep foreclosure mediation, earlier this year, Sen. Elizabeth Crowley, Sen. Paul Jabour, Sen. Harold Metts, and Sen. Ana Quezada sponsored a Senate’s version of the bill that would extend the sunset provision to July 1, 2023. In the House, Rep. Susan Donovan, Rep. Raymond Johnston, Rep. Mary Messier, and Rep. Michael Morin sponsored the House version of the bill that would repeal the sunset provision entirely. Currently, the Senate voted and passed their version of the bill on May 23, 2018, but the House Judiciary Committee recommended earlier this month that their version of the bill be held for further study.

The Connecticut legislature is also working to extend the life of their state’s foreclosure mediation program. The Connecticut foreclosure mediation program began in 2008. As this article from the Hartford Courant highlights, between the program’s inception on July 1, 2008 to December 31, 2017, the program has heard 27,958 cases. Of these cases 70% resulted in borrowers staying in their homes, 16% reached agreements for a short sale or other measure, and only 14% did not settle. Like the bills in Rhode Island, there are two versions of an act that would either extend or eliminate the sunset provision making their way through the Connecticut legislature. Both versions of the bill are sponsored by the House of Representatives Banking Committee with the most notable difference between the two bills being the treatment of the sunset provision. The House version of the bill the bill would eradicate the sunset provision for the program entirely whereas the Senate version would extend the sunset provision to December 31, 2019.  Given that the sunset provision doesn’t expire until 2019, the Connecticut legislature has more time to save their foreclosure mediation program than Rhode Island.

A Pawfect Participant – New Study Says Therapy Dogs May Help Manage Emotions in Family Mediation

Nicole Wilmet, May 1st, 2018

A recent Harvard Negotiation Law Review paper written by David Paul, an attorney, mediator, and family law arbitrator in British Columbia, suggests that therapy dogs may benefit participants in family law mediation. As this article reports, the genesis behind David’s idea to use dogs in mediation first came to him twelve years ago when he brought his family dog into work with him. As David explains, while at work his dog would quietly sit in on family law mediations and he noticed that the dog had a calming effect on the mediating parties. Flash forward a decade later, while David was pursuing his Masters of Law degree in Dispute Resolution, he dove further into this subject by dedicating his thesis to studying therapy dogs and mediation after he realized that the use of therapy dogs had been studied in a wide variety of fields except for law.

David’s article, discusses how Animal-Assisted Intervention (using animals for therapeutic purposes) may be a useful practice to incorporate into family mediations as a means to deescalate emotions and facilitate effective communications. The article begins by cultivating research that details the physical and emotional health benefits of therapy animals. Benefits of therapy dogs include an increase in positive emotions, attention, concentration, relation, and motivation and a decrease in blood pressure, heart rate, emotional pain, stress, depression, anger, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness. Given the emotional benefits of therapy dogs, David advocates for using Canine-Assisted Mediation (CAM) in family law mediations, which often involve highly emotional and life-changing disputes.  David argues that including therapy dogs in mediation would provide mediators with a cost-effective, safe and non-verbal tool that mediators could add to their toolbox and use to manage parties’ emotions. The article also argues a variety of ways that CAM could meet the needs of family litigants including: making the mediation process less intimidating, enhancing the mood, increasing feelings of trust, relieving the parties’ emotional distress, and providing parties with social support. Finally, the article also provides guidelines for planning and implementing effective CAM.

Today, Paul is currently working on putting his research to practice and is having his puppy Charlie trained to become Canada’s first certified therapy dog in family law mediation.

      David Paul and his dog Charlie
      Image: Jenifer Norwell /CBC