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

How COVID-19 is Impacting Court ADR Programs

Nicole Wilmet, March 18th, 2020

It is without a doubt an understatement to say that the coronavirus (COVID-19) global health crisis is drastically impacting communities worldwide. News about COVID-19 is changing at a rapid pace (and has likely changed drastically since this piece was written). Words like “lockdown” and “social distancing” are becoming commonplace as states across the country are taking new measures to limit social interactions and keep communities and individuals safe. Here in the United States, this epidemic continues to raise all sorts of questions about what should remain open, what should be closed, and when? 

Courts across the country are also grappling with these types of questions. Here in Illinois, courts are considering these concerns and are currently taking a variety of different approaches at this time with some courts postponing certain types of cases and non-essential meetings or choosing to remain open but promoting remote access services. In Georgia, the chief justice has issued an order declaring a statewide judicial emergency and is ordering courts and clerk’s offices to suspend all non-essential court functions and “to the extent court proceedings are held, they should be done in a manner to limit the risk of exposure, such as by videoconferencing, where possible.” In Michigan, the state Supreme Court has released an administrative order detailing emergency procedures in court facilities and some courts have closed business operations via local administrative orders

As a hub for court ADR, here are the issues we have been hearing at our organization that court ADR programs are encountering as they address the coronavirus:

  • Responses to COVID-19 by court ADR programs are shaped by what their courts decide  to do. 
  • ADR program administrators are concerned for the health of their neutrals, the health of the parties, and their own health. 
  • ADR program administrators are concerned they will not have sufficient neutrals available due to actual illness or a neutral’s need to protect themselves by quarantining. 
  • This might be a good time for courts to use online platforms (such as Zoom) or telephonic conference options to conduct ADR sessions. However, online dispute resolution options also have their own set of considerations like:
    • The free Zoom account has a limit of 40 minutes for group meetings and courts may need to pay for a premium account that would allow them to access certain features to conduct their meetings. 
    • Courts are unlikely to have sufficient neutrals who are trained in how to conduct ADR processes online and there may be a learning curve to conduct sessions telephonically or online. 
    • Parties may not have the resources to be able to access online ADR options at this time. 
    • Online platforms, like Zoom, will likely become overly burdened as an entire workforce and education systems transition to these platforms.

With information surrounding the coronavirus changing so quickly, for the latest information on how your court program is responding to COVID-19, I recommend visiting your court’s website or calling your local court directly. If your state has a state court ADR office (which you can find by searching your state on RSI’s Court ADR Across the U.S. resource), that office may have more information about how court ADR programs are moving forward in your state. If your state does not have a court ADR office, visit your local bar association’s website, which may have more information. In the meantime, I hope you are all staying well!

Ohio’s Fifth District Court of Appeals to Launch Appellate Mediation Program

Nicole Wilmet, February 27th, 2020

Ohio’s Fifth District Court of Appeals will be launching an appellate mediation program. The Fifth District Court is the largest appellate court in Ohio and serves the Ashland, Coshocton, Delaware, Fairfield, Guernsey, Holmes, Knox, Licking, Morgan, Morrow, Muskingum, Perry, Richland, Stark and Tuscarawas counties. Recent news about the appellate mediation program reports that the program will be voluntary and limited to civil cases. The program is expected to launch by spring 2020.

According to the Court’s announcement about the program, the Court is currently in the process of drafting a local mediation rule. Once drafted, the proposed rule will be published on the Court’s website with a request for comment from the public and legal community. Recent news reports that once published, the rule will be available for comment for 30 days. The Court has selected Aletha Carver to serve as the Court’s mediator. Those interested in additional information about the program should please contact Ms. Carver at amcarver@starkcountyohio.gov.

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.