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Just Court ADR

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Archive for the ‘Court ADR Across the U.S.’ Category

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.

RSI Conducts Seminars on Court ADR in New Mexico

Just Court ADR, October 24th, 2019

RSI Executive Director Susan Yates conducted a series of three seminars on “Building Your Court’s Civil ADR System” at New Mexico’s statewide ADR conference in Santa Fe on October 9 and 10. The court track at the conference was hosted by the New Mexico Administrative Office of the Courts and the Statewide ADR Commission. Judges, court personnel and mediators from all across the state participated.

The first of the three sessions was called “Design Your Program” and addressed issues such as goal-setting, research, determining which ADR process to use and budgeting. The second session, “Work with Neutrals,” dealt with a variety of topics from determining the criteria for mediators and other neutrals to ensuring continuing quality of services. The third session, “Manage, Track, Evaluate and Promote Your Program,” detailed the many tasks required to maintain a healthy court ADR program. During the seminars, participants had opportunities to work with others from their particular jurisdictions about how to address the issues in their local context. If you are interested in reading more about these topics, visit our Guide to Program Success. To learn about how RSI can work with or provide training for your program, send a message to a member of our staff!

Left to Right: RSI Executive Director Susan Yates during her presentation in New Mexico and Susan Yates with Mateo Page, ADR Statewide Program Manager at the New Mexico Administrative Office of the Courts.

Michigan Supreme Court Launches New Online Dispute Resolution Program, MI-Resolve

Nicole Wilmet, August 23rd, 2019

In August, the Michigan Supreme Court launched MI-Resolve, a free online dispute resolution tool. The program is provided by Matterhorn and is currently available for district courts in 17 Michigan counties to use. During the pilot phase of this program, MI-Resolve is limited to cases alleging that money is owed and is being used in small claims, general civil, landlord-tenant, contract, and neighborhood disputes. The goal of MI-Resolve is to make access to legal resources more efficient and affordable and save parties the time and cost of having to go to court in person.

Through the program, parties may resolve their disputes with or without the assistance of a mediator. When working with a mediator, MI-Resolve’s Terms of Service note that parties may arrange to meet in person with a mediator or via videoconference. In recent news coverage of the program, Michelle Hilliker from the Michigan Office of Dispute Resolution noted that mediators for the program are required to complete at least 40 hours of State Court Administrative Office approved training and a 10-hour internship. Individuals do not need to have a case filed in court to use MI-Resolve. However, if parties do have a dispute filed, they may use MI-Resolve to try to reach a settlement before their hearing or trial date.

Parties wishing to use MI-Resolve must be over 18, live, work, or have a dispute arise in one of the 17 counties offering the program, have an active e-mail address, access to the internet, and must agree to the terms in the Agreement to Mediate (which parties access through their registration page after completing intake). In the press release for the program, the Michigan Supreme Court notes that MI-Resolve is expected to expand statewide soon.

Nebraska Updates Legislation to Include Restorative Justice

Nicole Wilmet, July 19th, 2019

In May, the Nebraska legislature passed an alternative dispute resolution bill that, in part, updates the state’s Dispute Resolution Act, Juvenile Code, and Student Discipline Act to include restorative justice provisions and expand the Office of Dispute Resolution’s authority to utilize restorative justice. The updated Dispute Resolution Act now requires the Office of Dispute Resolution director to support the implementation, development, promotion and evaluation of restorative justice at ADR centers. Individuals approved to be restorative justice facilitators at these centers are required to complete 30 hours of basic mediation training and must also undergo additional restorative justice focused training in topics including, but not limited to, restorative justice basics, trauma-informed practices, juvenile developmental characteristics and crime victimization.

The bill also updates the Dispute Resolution Act to include a privilege for communications made during or in connection with cases referred to restorative justice programs. The new bill also provides definitions for restorative justice and restorative justice facilitator in both the Dispute Resolution Act and Juvenile Code and further defines victim conferencing in the Juvenile Code.

Updates to the Juvenile Code include providing restorative justice as an option in juvenile cases and permitting courts to order juveniles for assessment and referral to restorative justice programs. Additionally, the newly updated Juvenile Code permits county/city attorneys to utilize restorative justice services as a part of diversion. Finally, the new legislation updates the Student Discipline Act and permits school districts to refer students to restorative justice practices and services to address behavioral issues. The bill was signed into law by Governor Pete Ricketts on May 21, 2019 and may be read in full here.

Participants Are Highly Satisfied with Nevada’s Child Protection Mediation Program

Jennifer Shack, July 1st, 2019

Last month, I talked about a new evaluation of child protection mediation in Michigan. I’m following this up with a 2017 evaluation of child protection mediation in Nevada. Both evaluations were of several programs taking place throughout the respective states, but their focuses are quite different. Where the Michigan study primarily examined time to permanency, the Nevada study focused much more on participant experience in the mediation and process issues.

The Nevada study, “Process Evaluation of Nevada’s Statewide Dependency Mediation Program,” by Shamini Ganasarajah, et al, of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, found high levels of satisfaction with mediation and agreement, as well as a possible impact on whether scheduled hearings after mediation were cancelled. The study also found that there was no difference in satisfaction rate based on the stage at which mediation occurred, but that satisfaction was higher when mediation resulted in agreement as compared to when it did not.

The study looked at mediation in seven counties. In these counties, mediation can be used at any point of the case. However, most cases used the mediation program at the termination of parental rights (TPR) stage, which is at the end of the case. (This finding regarding the timing of mediation is skewed somewhat by one county using mediation almost exclusively at the TPR stage.) Time in mediation averaged two hours.

Those who participated in mediation were asked to complete post-mediation surveys. For the purposes of this study, these people were divided into program participants (these are natural parents and foster parents) and system stakeholders (the attorneys and case workers involved in the case). During the study period (July 2016 through April 2017), participants completed 113 post-mediation surveys and stakeholders completed 267. In their responses, 84% of the participants and 98% of the stakeholders expressed satisfaction with the mediation program. Their satisfaction was statistically related to whether they reached agreement in the mediation.

The participants (family members) were highly positive about all aspects of the mediation. All of them thought the process was fair. Almost all said they were able to voice their opinions, were treated with respect and were able to be a part of finding answers to the problems discussed. Almost 90% said the others really listened to them. For all practical purposes, these responses did not vary based on whether they were foster parents, natural mothers or natural fathers.

The evaluators analyzed whether there was a relationship among the participants’ responses. One that stood out was that when participants believed others in the mediation had “really listened” to what they had to say, they were more likely to express satisfaction with the mediation regardless of whether an agreement was reached.

The stakeholders (attorneys and caseworkers) were also highly positive about the mediation, with all or almost all believing the process was fair, that they had an opportunity to express their opinion, were treated with respect, were listened to and were able to be a part of finding answers to the problems discussed.

Interestingly, both participants and stakeholders were most likely to mention communication as what was most helpful about the mediation. Both groups were also most likely to say that parties being unable or unwilling to compromise was the reason no agreement was reached.

Also interesting was that the mediators reported agreements in 84% of cases, while the stakeholders reported that agreement resulted from only 71% of their mediations. There is no explanation as to why. The study also found that hearings were cancelled after 51% of the mediations were held. The evaluators recommended further examination of the relationship between mediation and vacated hearings.

Other recommendations included expanding the use of mediation to all stages of the case, as most mediations occurred at the TPR stage; assessing implementation of domestic violence screening protocols; and enhancing mediator training to include additional strategies for effectively listening to participants and stakeholders and making them feel heard.