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

Illinois Supreme Court Issues Order Encouraging Use of ADR for Evictions

Nicole Wilmet, March 30th, 2021

For months, the U.S. has been preparing for an anticipated wave of evictions and foreclosures due to COVID-19. A recent report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) suggests that the amount of potential foreclosures and evictions the U.S. is facing is at a level that hasn’t been seen since the height of the Great Recession in 2010. In the report, the CFPB notes that, as of December 2020, 11 million U.S. renters and homeowners are significantly overdue on their regularly housing payments and are at risk of foreclosure or eviction. 

As I have previously reported, courts across the country have been preparing for this wave of evictions by exploring using alternative dispute resolution (ADR) for eviction cases. In February, the Illinois Supreme Court issued an Order that authorizes and encourages Illinois courts to use ADR for eviction cases and establish Eviction Early Resolution Programs. The Order leaves room for courts to choose whether their programs will be voluntary or mandatory and select the type of ADR that their program will use. Additionally, the Order encourages circuits to allow parties meaningful opportunities to access various counseling services such as financial, housing and relocation services. Additionally, the Order encourages court programs to provide opportunities for unrepresented parties to obtain legal information or representation. To aid courts in developing their eviction programs, the Court highlights a collection of program resources that includes samples of Eviction Early Resolution Programs from both within Illinois and in other states (including Michigan and Texas). 

RSI Receives Eviction Mediation Grant

Susan M. Yates, March 29th, 2021

The Illinois Equal Justice Foundation recently awarded RSI a grant of more than $30,000 to help support RSI’s eviction mediation program in Kane County, Illinois, and our outreach to 14 Illinois judicial circuits, encompassing 39 counties, in central and northern Illinois. For both aspects of this grant, RSI will draw on our decades of experience designing and evaluating court mediation programs.

RSI has been working closely with the court and stakeholders in Kane County since last year in preparation for an expected influx of eviction cases when moratoriums expire. During the grant period, which runs from March 15, 2021 through June 30, 2021, we will reach out to other courts about their interest in eviction mediation, and offer technical assistance to help design programs as needed. 

If you live or work in a northern or central Illinois county and are interested in eviction mediation in your community, please reach out to RSI at info@aboutRSI.org

New York Court Launches ODR Pilot Program for Small Claims Cases

Nicole Wilmet, February 26th, 2021

In January, Manhattan’s Civil Court launched an online dispute resolution (ODR) pilot program for small claims cases. The program is designed to assist self-represented parties and eligible cases include disputes regarding the purchase or sale of goods or services up to $10,000. Cases meeting these criteria will automatically be referred to the program and then be screened for eligibility. If eligible, parties will have the opportunity to negotiate through the platform to resolve their dispute.

New York’s new program uses the Matterhorn platform and is free for parties. In a press release for the program, the court indicates that the new ODR platform will lead parties through an “automated double-blind bidding process, in which each party makes an offer that may only be disclosed after both offers match [and] depending on the outcome.” In this helpful video, the court explains what this process looks like in practice. As the video explains, once on the platform, both parties will be invited to submit a proposed settlement amount. In the example from the video, if one party submits a settlement amount for $800 and the other party presents a settlement amount for $200, then the program will use the overlap between these two amounts and split the difference in half (ex: $500). From there, the platform will present this amount to the parties as a proposed solution. If the parties are able to agree to the proposed amount, the platform will then guide the parties through negotiating the other terms of the settlement.

In the event parties are unable to reach an agreement, the ODR platform will then present several other resolution options to the parties. First, the platform will give parties the opportunity to communicate with each other through a chat interface to see if they are able to reach a settlement. Second, if the parties are still unable to reach agreement, they will be given the option to work with a mediator. Finally, if the parties do not want to proceed with chat and mediation, or were unable to reach an agreement in mediation, parties will then have the option to proceed to court. For additional information about the program, visit the program’s website or contact the Civil Court of the City of New York by phone at 646-386-5484.

Idaho’s Pilot Eviction Mediation Program Shows Early Signs of Success

Nicole Wilmet, January 29th, 2021

As a result of COVID-19, Idaho’s Canyon County, like many counties across the United States, is facing an increase in eviction cases. After seeing success with mediation programs in two other nearby counties (Ada and Idaho Falls), Canyon County launched its own pilot eviction mediation program for landlords and tenants this past November. This new program offers landlords and tenants the opportunity to potentially avoid the unknowns that can arise during eviction hearings or trials. For landlords, one of the greatest unknowns of an eviction trial may be the significant loss in back rent payment. For tenants, a trial may result in the fear of losing a home and having a permanent eviction judgment on their record – which may make it difficult to find other housing in the future. As a result, with this eviction mediation program, landlords and tenants in Canyon County now have the opportunity to address these unknowns directly and craft their own alternative solutions for their case.

Since the Canyon County program’s launch in November, 38 eviction cases have been scheduled for a hearing and each case has agreed to try the court’s new mediation program. Recent reports indicate that during the mediations, most renters are agreeing to “[pay] some money in a specified amount of time.” If tenants are able to uphold that agreement, “then at the review hearing their case is dismissed.” Of these 38 cases, recent news outlets further report that only “18% of tenants did not uphold the bargain and evictions were entered” and “only 5%, or two cases, did not reach [any type of] a resolution” during mediation. In the same report, Third District Judge Susan Clark shared that the mediators for the program are hired on a contract basis and, currently, the estimated cost to the county for the program is $150 per case. 

Illinois’ Cook County Launches New Legal Aid Program for Housing and Debt Cases

Nicole Wilmet, December 17th, 2020

Illinois’ Cook County has launched a new initiative aimed at helping resolve eviction, foreclosure, debt, and tax deed issues. The initiative, entitled Cook County Legal Aid for Housing and Debt (“CCLAHD”), provides Cook County residents and landlords access to legal assistance, counseling, case management and mediation services. The CCLAHD initiative comes as a result of a partnership between the County, Cook County Circuit Court, the Chicago Bar Foundation and a variety of community partners including Coordinated Advice & Referral Program for Legal Services (“CARPLS”), the Center for Conflict Resolution, Center for Disability and Elder Law, Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, Greater Chicago Legal Clinic, Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing, Legal Aid Chicago and Legal Aid Society. 

The new CCLAHD initiative is currently operating its first program, the Early Resolution Program (“ERP”) and expects to start several more. Under the ERP, pro bono services will be offered to Cook County residents without legal representation including (1) tenants facing eviction, (2) landlords dealing with an eviction, (3) debtors being sued for unpaid debts, (4) creditors suing on the basis of unpaid debts and (5) residents who have defaulted on property tax payments or mortgage foreclosure payments. News outlets report that Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has indicated that there will also be a tax deed specific program that will launch sometime in 2021. Those interested in learning more about the ERP or volunteering may visit the CCLAHD website.