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Just Court ADR

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My Favorite Resource Featuring Alyson Carrel

Nicole Wilmet, October 30th, 2019

Our series My Favorite Resource, features interviews with ADR friends across the country to learn about their favorite resources. This month, I spoke with Alyson Carrel, RSI Board Member and Clinical Associate Professor and Assistant Director of Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s Center on Negotiation and Mediation, to learn about her favorite ADR resource.

NW: What is one of your favorite ADR resources?

AC: One of my favorite ADR resources is the Dispute Resolution Resources for Legal Educators section of the University of Missouri Law School’s Center for the Study of Dispute Resolution website.

NW: Why do you value this particular resource?

AC:  This resource is a one-stop-shop with almost everything a person might need when they take on the daunting task of teaching or teaching a new class for the first time. While some textbooks include a teacher’s manual with a sample syllabus and a set of exercises, not all textbooks do. And even those that do present a single perspective on how best to teach a subject. But this website provides sample syllabi from multiple legal educators across the country (and the world) for multiple courses (including unique iterations of those courses). For instance, there are at least 30 mediation syllabi posted on the website, and another 30 syllabi for more unusual or specialized courses such as “Mediation and Collaborative Lawyering: Consensual Dispute Resolution” or “Introduction to Dispute Resolution in Healthcare.”

NW: How did you first learn about this resource?

AC: This resource is regularly referenced on its corresponding listserv, Dispute Resolution for Legal Educators listserv (DRLE), yet another fantastic resource available through Missouri’s website. The listserv is a place for individuals teaching a Dispute Resolution course in the legal education context to ask questions, provide answers, and share new information and tidbits. (Those interested in applying to the listserv can email and in the body of the email write: subscribe DRLE.)

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

AC: I would absolutely make sure to check out the Teaching Materials section of the website. I previously described the extensive set of simulations and exercises posted on the site, but you will also find links to other teaching resources compiled by the ABA, Suffolk University and more. Instead of having to remember all the different resources out there, Missouri has gathered them all in one place: Dwight Golann’s “class in a box” provides a folder with simulations, teaching notes and corresponding videos; the ABA has a list of exercises for “lawyer as problem-solver”; and Mitchell-Hamline’s video re-enactments of legal cases involving mediation ethics.

I often receive emails from individuals teaching for the first time, asking me for advice and guidance. The first thing I do is send them to this site. It is simply the best and most comprehensive site for ADR teaching resources.

California’s Yolo Superior Court Launches New Online Dispute Resolution Program

Nicole Wilmet, October 25th, 2019

California’s Yolo County Superior Court has launched a new online dispute resolution (ODR) program to resolve debt and money due cases. The program utilizes Tyler Technologies’ Modria® software and guides parties step-by-step through the small claims process. Parties participating in the ODR program will be required to pay a fee of $25. The plaintiff will be responsible for payment, unless the parties agree to split the cost or the defendant agrees to reimburse the plaintiff.

A brochure for the program notes that the ODR process begins after a plaintiff logs in to the platform and registers their case. Then, the plaintiff will use the platform to make an initial demand to the defendant for an amount they are willing to accept to settle the case before trial. The platform then sends an email to the defendant with the demand, at which point the defendant can agree or provide a counter-offer. In the event the parties are unable to reach an agreement during these initial steps, then either party may request a mediator. If both parties agree to mediate, then a mediator will be assigned to the case and the mediator will contact the parties to initiate their confidential online mediation. If the parties reach an agreement during mediation, the agreement will be emailed to the parties for signature. After signing, the agreement is sent to the court and the case is dismissed. However, if the parties are unable to resolve their dispute within 45 days then the case will go to trial.

The court’s website for the program answers questions about the program and includes several informative videos for parties discussing the basics of mediation, how the program works and how to use the Modria® platform.

My Favorite Resource Featuring James Alifni

Nicole Wilmet, October 1st, 2019

Our series My Favorite Resource, features interviews with ADR friends across the country to learn about their favorite resources. This month, I spoke with James Alfini, RSI Board Member and Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law at South Texas College of Law, to learn about his favorite resource.

NW: What is one of your favorite ADR resources?

JA: My favorite resource is the Center for Judicial Ethics (CJE) at the National Center for State Courts (NCSC). The Director of the CJE is Cynthia Gray who had been at the helm for well over twenty years when the CJE was located at the American Judicature Society. When AJS was dissolved a few years ago, soon after it had celebrated its 100th anniversary, Cindy Gray and the CJE moved to the NCSC.

NW: How did you first learn about the Judicial Ethics Center?

JA: I worked at the American Judicature Society (AJS) in the 1970s and 1980s and helped to organize the Center for Judicial Conduct Organizations, the predecessor of the Center for Judicial Ethics. AJS, as the premier court reform organization in the twentieth century, had been the catalyst for the establishment of state judicial conduct organizations to receive, investigate, and prosecute charges of judicial misconduct. These were viewed as necessary counterparts to judicial independence to insure that judges were not only independent but accountable to the public and would be held to high standards of conduct. The first judicial conduct organization was established in California in 1961. There are now state level judicial disciplinary organizations in every state and the District of Columbia. The CJE serves a very valuable function in reviewing and cataloging the decisions of the judicial conduct organizations and state high courts. These decisions are based on the judicial ethics rules adopted in each state, and usually referred to as the code of judicial conduct for that state.

NW: Why do you value this particular resource?

JA: The Center for Judicial Ethics is the national clearinghouse for information on judicial ethics and discipline. It is an essential resource for the state judicial conduct organizations in researching instances of judicial misconduct and applying relevant provisions of the code of judicial conduct. It is also the key resource for me and my co-authors of our treatise, Judicial Conduct and Ethics, which is currently in its 5th edition. The CJE also publishes the Judicial Conduct Reporter and other materials on judicial ethics. It responds each year to numerous inquiries from citizens, journalists, lawyers, court administrators and judges. Every other year CJE holds a national conference on judicial conduct and ethics.

NW: What interests you most about judicial ethics?

JA: In a democratic society, it is essential that we have an impartial judiciary of great integrity. That is, a judiciary that is beyond reproach and worthy of the public trust. Standards of judicial ethics permit us to hold our judges accountable and thus worthy of that public trust. It is an essential tool in holding judges accountable for their actions and is thus an important counterpart to the independent judiciary we value in a democratic society.

NW: For those unfamiliar with the Judicial Ethics Center, what’s one aspect of the Center that you wouldn’t want someone new to the resource to miss?

JA: For my colleagues in the court ADR field, I would stress that there are intersections between judicial ethics and court ADR. For example, a provision in the code of judicial conduct in most states requires judges to make appointments impartially and avoid the appearance of favoritism. This would include the appointment of mediators and other dispute resolvers. In Texas, ethical concerns about judicial selection of mediators (often turning on whether the mediator contributed to the judge’s re-election campaign) prompted the passing of a state statute, which mirrored the ethics rule (requiring fairness and transparency in the selection of mediators). The CJE thus offers the court ADR community an important resource on judicial ethics rules and cases.

Two New Chapters of RSI’s Guide to Program Success and a Special Topic for Program Administrators Now Available!

Nicole Wilmet, September 30th, 2019

We are thrilled to announce that two new chapters of our Guide to Program Success are now available! RSI’s Guide to Program Success combines the expertise of Executive Director Susan Yates and Director of Research Jennifer Shack and discusses how to effectively design, manage and evaluate successful court ADR programs. Newly released Chapter 10: Write Your Court Rules focus on writing and revising court rules and includes a Guide to Exemplary Rules, which highlights exemplary rules courts can turn to for guidance when developing or updating their court rules. Chapter 11: Design a System to Track Your Program discusses how courts can design a system to collect useful data so they know how their program is doing.

Additionally, we are pleased to introduce a new Special Topic for Program Administrators which corresponds with our Guide to Program Success to answer questions that program administrators may have about developing a new court ADR program and running or improving an existing one. Examples of some of the questions answered and included in the new Special Topic include: why should courts start an ADR program, who should be involved in the program development or improvement process, what does the planning team need to know before writing court rules and designing program processes, and when and how should courts be tracking program progress or evaluating the program?

We hope you find these resources valuable in your work!

AFCC Endorses Child Protection Mediation Model Mediator Competencies

Nicole Wilmet, September 26th, 2019

The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts’ (AFCC) Board of Directors recently endorsed the Child Protection Mediation (CPM) Model Mediator Competencies. Inspired by the AFCC’s Guidelines for Child Protection Mediation, the competencies were developed by a CPM Model Mediator Competencies Workgroup after the group reviewed a chapter in the Guidelines on “Mediator Recruitment and Training.” The workgroup was comprised of a variety of CPM practitioners including: Laura Bassein, JD; Kelly Browe Olson, JD; Gregory Firestone, PhD; Marilou Giovannucci, MS; and Susan Storcel, JD.

The competencies take a thorough look at CPM and identify the various knowledge, skills, and abilities that effective CPM mediators should have. Some of the subjects addressed include communication skills, ethics, diversity issues, self-determination and domestic violence issues. Court programs and mediators may utilize these competencies to further their understanding of what CPM programs should expect their mediators to know and may be used as a basis for training, personal development, mentoring, and evaluation.