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Just Court ADR

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Eric Slepak-Cherney Named RSI Associate Director

Susan M. Yates, September 4th, 2018

I am pleased to announce the promotion of Eric Slepak-Cherney to the newly-created position of RSI Associate Director. In this position, Eric focuses on how to sustain and grow RSI in our mission to improve access to justice through court alternative dispute resolution. He has been with RSI since 2015 and with this promotion is now assisting with setting the strategic vision for RSI, coordinating the development and administration of the organization’s programs, and managing our fundraising activities.

Please join me in congratulating Eric and wishing him well in this new position!

Sincerely,

Susan M. Yates

End of One Era, Beginning of Another

Susan M. Yates, August 31st, 2018

August 31, 2018, will mark the end of an era at RSI. Our five-year foreclosure mediation grant from the Office of the Illinois Attorney General will come to an end.

This grant, which we received 15 years into our operation, was our opportunity to prove that when given sufficient resources, RSI could deliver the kind of quality court mediation program that we had been recommending to others all those years. I used terms like “practice what we preach,” “proof is in the pudding” and even, “put up or shut up!”

At that time, we promised to:

  • Work with courts and other stakeholders to design and operate three foreclosure mediation programs in three judicial circuits in northern Illinois
  • Develop and conduct training for mediators in our programs and those operated by our partner organizations farther downstate
  • Develop an online system to collect data about the programs enabling us to produce regular statistical reports and two comprehensive evaluations

I am happy to report that we delivered!

In the process, we confirmed some maxims about how to do quality court ADR and added a few corollaries.

  1. Study first

Before we start working with a court on their ADR program, we update our knowledge of the particular area in which we will be working. In this situation we researched what was happening across the country with foreclosure and how courts were using alternative approaches.

Corollary: Sometimes you have to build the plane while flying it. In the midst of a national foreclosure crisis, courts across the country were scrambling to keep up. While it was helpful to see what others were doing, we needed to figure out how to do foreclosure mediation in a way that worked in Illinois courts with their particular needs and resources.

  1. Work with stakeholders

We know that it is critical to bring together all the stakeholders while developing a court ADR system so that their various needs can be considered. In foreclosure mediation, the usual stakeholders – judges, court administrators, mediators and lawyers for both lenders and borrowers – were joined by a new addition: housing counselors, who were critical to the success of many of the programs.

Corollary: As important as it is to have all the voices heard, in the end, judges often have to make decisions about exactly how court ADR programs will work, and these decisions may not satisfy everyone. Fortunately, RSI doesn’t “have a dog in the fight,” so we can offer unbiased, expert advice about pros and cons of various approaches.

  1. Value the people who do the work

Never underestimate the importance of visible, capable staff. These programs are being continued because of dedicated program coordinators, who kept the cases moving and kept the courts informed of program progress, and because of skilled mediators who worked with intelligence and compassion in the midst of foreclosure – which is a crisis for each homeowner, even once the nation’s crisis has abated.

Corollary: These programs are not easy to administer. Juggling spinning plates is an apt metaphor for the challenge of administering programs with sometimes complex court rules that apply to everyone from sophisticated lawyers to overwhelmed homeowners.

  1. Collect and use reliable data

Turning data into meaningful information means different things to different stakeholders at different times. In the foreclosure mediation programs, we produced everything from monthly statistical reports for judges about numbers of cases in their programs and how they were being resolved to a mega-evaluation of all the programs that compared strengths of the various approaches and made recommendations about how each might improve.

Corollary: In a situation like this one in which every program was different, finding ways to make “apples to apples” comparisons was critical. Doing that successfully allowed RSI to make recommendations for improvement from a place of knowledge, not opinion.

Success and a New Era

September 1st will mark the beginning of a new era, as all three of our foreclosure mediation programs continue to operate thanks to the support of their local courts! We take this as the surest sign of success, that the courts value these programs enough to find a way to continue them when outside funding ends. We are grateful to the Attorney General for supporting these programs, to courts for their partnership and to the skilled mediators for conducting the mediations. We are pleased to continue to provide services to homeowners and their lenders when foreclosure looms.

Special Masters in the News

Susan M. Yates, April 16th, 2018

It’s not every morning that a court ADR mechanism is mentioned in a top news story, but there it was this morning. The idea of a special master was raised in a discussion of options for the court when it comes to deciding what is inside and outside the bounds of attorney-client privilege in the case of Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer, whose home, office and hotel room were the subject of a recent search warrant.

The intricacies of “clean teams” and “dirty teams” are far outside my knowledge base, but “special master” is something I understand. RSI defines it in our Court ADR Basics,  “… special masters, are appointed by the court, not the parties, to ensure that a court order is being followed.” For more in-depth information about how the federal court operates in terms of special masters, you might want to check out the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 53, Masters, which includes extensive notes on the 2003 amendments to Rule 53.

Whether or not the court decides to name a special master in this situation, as a self-professed court ADR nerd, the fact that it is part of the public discussion was a cool way to start the week.

The Twelve Hours of Conflict

Susan M. Yates, December 20th, 2017

In what has become a holiday tradition at RSI, here is my ADR-themed parody of the Twelve Days of Christmas. 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!

Next Era in Court ADR Resources Now Available

Susan M. Yates, September 26th, 2017

Dear Friends of RSI,

I am thrilled to announce that RSI has launched our new website! Many years in the making, AboutRSI.org now offers a one-stop shop for all things court ADR.

In the revamped Resource Center, you’ll find easier ways to access the resources you rely on, such as information about programs across the country and details on over 5,000 articles, studies and other resources related to court ADR.

You’ll also find new content written by the RSI team. I’m especially proud of our Guide to Program Success – covering how to design, manage and evaluate successful court ADR programs – written by RSI Director of Research Jen Shack and me.

If you are interested in RSI and the critical work we’re doing in court ADR, you will find robust information. You’ll also find all of our major publications – including our program evaluations and monthly Court ADR Connection newsletter.

To learn more, visit us at www.aboutrsi.org!

Sincerely,

Susan Yates

Executive Director