Resources / Study / Innovation for Court ADR

Just Court ADR

The blog of Resolution Systems Institute

Author Archive

Characteristics of Quality Court ADR Programs

Susan M. Yates, September 18th, 2019

What characteristics do you think are shared by quality court ADR programs? I took a swing at a list here. What would you add? Change?

1. Goals

There must be a shared understanding of the goals of the ADR program so that there can also be a shared understanding about whether it is succeeding.

  1. The court must be clear about its goals for the ADR program
  2. Those goals must be shared with stakeholders

 

2. Principles

The ADR program must operate on a common set of foundational principles, including ethics as appropriate for the ADR process being provided.

  1. Confidentiality (in mediation)
  2. Fairness of process
  3. Fairness of outcomes
  4. Procedural justice
  5. Accessibility
  6. Neutral quality
  7. Self-determination (in mediation)
  8. Timeliness

 

3. Accessibility

Everyone – including litigants and lawyers – must be able to readily access the ADR program.

  1. Parties who are unable to pay for ADR are afforded the opportunity to use ADR
  2. Parties who are representing themselves are able to participate fully in ADR
  3. Parties with disabilities are able to participate fully in ADR

 

4. Process Quality

Notwithstanding the importance of other characteristics, the true quality of a court ADR program boils down to what happens during each ADR session.

  1. Whichever ADR process is being used, it adheres to the foundational principles of that process
  2. Participants have an experience of procedural justice when engaging in the ADR process:
    1. They feel they had a voice in the process (e.g., had a chance to talk, felt they were heard)
    2. They feel they were respected in the process
    3. They feel the process was fair to them

 

5. Program Support

The ADR program will only succeed if it receives steady support from a number of sources.

1. Stakeholders understand and support the ADR program

  • Judges
  • Litigants
  • Court staff
  • Neutrals

2. The program has sufficient, stable financial support

 

6. Neutrals

Neutrals are the face of the program to litigants and lawyers, so they must provide quality services.

  1. Neutrals share a common understanding of the service they are to provide
  2. Neutrals provide services in the manner expected by the program and its stakeholders
  3. Neutrals operate in an ethical manner
  4. Neutrals have the necessary skills and knowledge
  5. Neutrals are selected for the roster fairly
  6. Neutrals are appointed to cases in a fair manner
  7. Neutrals receive appropriate initial and ongoing training
  8. Neutrals provide a sufficiently uniform version of the ADR process
  9. Parties have a way to lodge complaints about neutrals
  10. Neutrals are treated fairly when a complaint against them is made
  11. Neutrals are compensated fairly (which does not preclude volunteer mediators)
  12. Neutrals are assessed fairly
    1. Participant surveys
    2. Peer review

 

7. Lawyers

Lawyers must support, or at the very least accept, the ADR program.

  1. Lawyers are often repeat users of the ADR program, therefore their support is especially important
  2. This applies equally to those who typically represent one side or the other, e.g., landlords’ lawyers and tenants’ lawyers.
  3. Lawyers should:
    1. Find the program useful
    2. Be educated about the program
    3. Fulfill their responsibilities in the program

 

8. Program Safety

ADR processes must be safe, both literally and figuratively.

  1. Participants, neutrals and staff are all safe when participating in ADR and otherwise interacting with the ADR program
  2. Participants are screened prior to ADR, when appropriate, to identify intimate partner violence and other potential barriers to participation

 

9. Data Collection and Dissemination

Reliable data must be collected regularly and shared appropriately, or it won’t be available when it is time to sustain or improve the ADR program.

  1. Data is collected regularly and includes both quantitative and qualitative information (e.g., statistics and success stories)
  2. Changes in the program are tracked and acted on, e.g., changes in:
    1. The number of cases being sent to ADR
    2. The number of agreements being reached
    3. The number of mediators signing up to mediate
    4. The number of parties showing up for ADR sessions
  3. Data is turned into reports that can be readily digested
    1. Easy to read
    2. No use of insider language or acronyms
    3. Fitting use of charts and other visuals
  4. Reports are adapted to their particular audience and disseminated appropriately, typically as follows:
    1. Judges and court administrators with direct responsibility get the most detailed reports
    2. Those higher up in the court system get summaries with explanations
    3. Funders’ reports depend on what the funder requires. They may also get some anecdotes about how parties are experiencing the program.
  5. Reports include recommendations for action when appropriate
  6. The program is evaluated near the end of the first year, after a substantial period of time, or when there has been a major change in the program or the context in which the program operates

 

10. Program Promotion

Reminding stakeholders of the value of the ADR program will help maintain its support.

  1. Brochures are made available in courtrooms and other locations as needed
    1. Brochures are only produced if they will serve a particular purpose, such as giving parties the number they need to call to schedule a mediation
    2. If brochures are targeted to self-represented litigants, they must be in easy-to-understand language
  2. News about the program is publicized via:
    1. Local radio, TV, newspaper, news websites
    2. Court newsletter
    3. Bar association newsletter
  3. Program is featured on appropriate websites
    1. Information about the ADR program can be readily found on the court’s site
    2. If the program maintains its own site, instead of appearing as part of the court’s site, it must be easy to find and navigate and kept up to date
  4. As members of stakeholder groups change, the new individuals are familiarized with the program
    1. Judges are educated on how it works, ethical limitations, what to expect
    2. Lawyers, e.g., child protection attorneys, assigned to courtrooms are trained in how to use the program
    3. Staff at funders are educated about the program’s benefits and history
    4. Court staff are educated about the program’s benefits and how it fits into court processes

 

11. Program Administration

Someone wakes up every morning with the feeling that it is their job to do everything on this list to ensure the quality and continuity of the ADR program.

  1. Individuals with power over the program, e.g., funding or case referrals, are kept informed about the program
  2. The ADR program operates in accordance with applicable laws, court procedures and rules
  3. The program functions efficiently and effectively, e.g.:
    1. Cases are referred to ADR in a consistent manner
    2. Cases are scheduled promptly
    3. Reports are provided to court on time
    4. The benefits provided by the ADR program are reasonable in relationship to the costs of the program
    5. Changes in the program are tracked and potential responses suggested when needed

 

RSI Receives Irwin Cantor Award and Two New Resources Now Available on AboutRSI.org

Susan M. Yates, June 14th, 2019

Dear Friend of RSI,

We have had a wonderful start to the summer here at RSI! From a trip to Toronto to new updates to AboutRSI.org, I am delighted to share some exciting updates and our latest resources with you!

RSI Receives Irwin Cantor Award

In May, Director of Research Jennifer Shack and I attended the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts’ 56th Annual Conference in Toronto, Canada. While there, RSI was awarded the AFCC’s Irwin Cantor Innovative Program Award. The Irwin Cantor Innovative Program Award was created to recognize innovation in court-connected or court-related programs. All of us at RSI thank the AFCC for this honor and for recognizing the work we are doing. We look forward to continuing to serve the court ADR community!

Jennifer Shack, me, and AFCC Executive Director Peter Salem at the AFCC Conference.

Introducing Our New Online Dispute Resolution Special Topic!

I am excited to introduce our new Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) Special Topic with you! With courts across the country exploring ODR at a rapid pace, our latest special topic provides a thoughtful context and guidance on how court administrators and stakeholders should approach the intersection of technology and dispute resolution. The special topic contains a history of ODR, considerations for courts, and a compilation of helpful resources.

RSI’s Newly Updated Court ADR Across the U.S.

Are you curious about what court ADR looks like across the country? Look no further than our Court ADR Across the U.S. which is the most comprehensive collection of court ADR resources for state courts throughout the country. Our newly updated resource contains the latest court ADR information for each state. Each state page provides an overview of relevant statutes, statewide court ADR rules, policies, evaluations, studies, and articles.

If you enjoy or utilize our resources, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to RSI here. Your donation will be put to work improving access to justice through quality court ADR.

Thank you as always for your support and your interest in our mission of improving access to justice by enhancing court ADR.

Susan M. Yates

Executive Director

Resolution Systems Institute

New Mediator Self-Reflection Tool

Susan M. Yates, January 9th, 2019

The Supreme Court of Virginia has developed a wonderful new self-reflection form for mediators. While the Court developed this tool for their certified mediators as part of their re-certification process, it is a valuable tool for any mediator (just ignore the instructions about continuing mediator education credits). There is a lot of content, so if you are using this on your own you will probably want to pick and choose among the questions. This new tool coordinates with Virginia’s excellent Mediator Self-Reflection Treasury.

Even though mediators work very closely with people when we mediate, typically no one else in the room shares our mediator perspective. There are exceptions, such as co-mediation or when we are observed by new mediators, but mediation can be an isolated activity (made especially so by the limits of confidentiality). This isolation makes self-reflection particularly important.

I can imagine many uses for these tools beyond self-reflection. A group of mediators could pick a few of the questions to discuss over lunch. For co-mediators, the tools could aid their debriefing. The forms might help a new court or community mediation program get clear about what they expect from mediators. The tools will probably spark other ideas when you read them.

Many thanks to the good people of the Supreme Court of Virginia for taking the time to produce and share these tools. They are a real gift to the mediation community.

Holidays. Gratitude. Hoping. Giving.

Susan M. Yates, December 12th, 2018

Popular American culture portrays the year-end holiday season as a special time for friends and family to gather. Over the years I have also seen that this time of year can bring a mixed bag of feelings. That certainly is the case at RSI! Here is some of what we are feeling as the year comes to a close.

EXCITED

RSI is dreaming big. We are developing an online dispute resolution process that will help parents work out how they will co-parent after they split up. We are encouraging more courts to tap into our deep well of research and evaluation expertise to improve their ADR programs. And we are working to increase the use of mediation when children who have been neglected are removed from their homes.

PROUD

One thing we are especially proud of is the work we have done and continue to do on foreclosure mediation. Our programs have helped to save more than 750 homes, we have completed the two most comprehensive evaluations of foreclosure ever conducted and all three of our programs are continuing with support from their courts after funding from the Illinois Attorney General ended August 31, 2018.

ANXIOUS

The end of that five-year grant from the Attorney General has added a certain sense of anxiety to our holiday cheer! We are facing the challenge of finding new financial support to continue working on our mission of strengthening access to justice through quality court ADR.

HOPEFUL

As we look forward to 2019, I am hopeful. Maybe that is because hopefulness is a job requirement for any non-profit executive director! But more than that, I see opportunities to make real differences in the lives of people who turn to the courts for civil justice.

GRATEFUL

I am personally so grateful to everyone who is part of RSI’s work. We have a dedicated Board and an amazing staff. We appreciate and are appreciated by the courts with whom we work. We know we can rely on skilled mediators and they, in turn, are appreciated by the parties they serve. We are supported financially by generous individuals, corporations, law firms, bar associations, courts and foundations. For all this, I am extremely grateful.

Whatever you are feeling during this holiday season, I hope that you share RSI’s desire to make justice more accessible through ADR. With your support, we can give voice to people when they need it most.

Please consider making a contribution to RSI, online at https://www.mightycause.com/organization/Resolution-Systems-Institute or by sending your check to RSI at 11 East Adams St., Suite 500, Chicago, IL 60603. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, so your contribution can be tax-deductible.

Thank you for supporting RSI’s mission to improve access to justice by enhancing court ADR.

The Twelve Hours of Conflict

Susan M. Yates, December 10th, 2018

In what has become a holiday tradition here at RSI, here is our annual posting of the The Twelve Hours of Conflict. Happy holidays!

For the first hour of conflict, my neutral gave to me a round table with a great view

For the second hour of conflict, my neutral gave to me two succinct summaries
And a round table with a great view

For the third hour of conflict, my neutral gave to me three paraphrases
Two succinct summaries
And a round table with a great view

For the fourth hour of conflict, my neutral gave to me four mirrored feelings
Three paraphrases
Two succinct summaries
And a round table with a great view

For the fifth hour of conflict, my neutral gave to me five as-pir-in
Four mirrored feelings
Three paraphrases
Two succinct summaries
And a round table with a great view

For the sixth hour of conflict, my neutral gave to me six tested realities
Five aspirin
Four mirrored feelings
Three paraphrases
Two succinct summaries
And a round table with a great view

For the seventh hour of conflict, my neutral gave to me seven caucuses
Six tested reality
Five aspirin
Four mirrored feelings
Three paraphrases
Two succinct summaries
And a round table with a great view

For the eighth hour of conflict, my neutral gave to me eight explored BATNAs
Seven caucuses
Six tested reality
Five aspirin
Four mirrored feelings
Three paraphrases
Two succinct summaries
And a round table with a great view

For the ninth hour of conflict, my neutral gave to me nine fresh perspectives
Eight explored BATNAs
Seven caucuses
Six tested reality
Five aspirin
Four mirrored feelings
Three paraphrases
Two succinct summaries
And a round table with a great view

For the tenth hour of conflict, my neutral gave to me ten brainstorms
Nine fresh perspectives
Eight explored BATNAs
Seven caucuses
Six tested reality
Five aspirin
Four mirrored feelings
Three paraphrases
Two succinct summaries
And a round table with a great view

For the eleventh hour of conflict, my neutral gave to me eleven cookie breaks
Ten brainstorms
Nine fresh perspectives
Eight explored BATNAs
Seven caucuses
Six tested reality
Five aspirin
Four mirrored feelings
Three paraphrases
Two succinct summaries
And a round table with a great view

For the twelfth hour of conflict, my neutral gave to me twelve resolved issues
Eleven cookie breaks
Ten brainstorms
Nine fresh perspectives
Eight explored BATNAs
Seven caucuses
Six tested reality
Five aspirin
Four mirrored feelings
Three paraphrases
Two succinct summaries
And a round table with a great view

Have a great New Year!