Resources / Study / Innovation for Court ADR

Just Court ADR

The blog of Resolution Systems Institute

Archive for the ‘Online Dispute Resolution’ Category

Ohio’s Portage County Launches the Nation’s First ODR Program for Foreclosure Mediation

Nicole Wilmet, November 25th, 2019

On November 18, 2019, Ohio’s Portage County launched the country’s first foreclosure mediation online dispute resolution (ODR) program. The program, developed under the guidance of Portage County Common Pleas Court Judge Laurie J. Pittman, uses Court Innovations’ Matterhorn software. A press release for the program indicates that one of the goals of the program is to make the process more accessible to the public by allowing parties to work on their cases remotely. The program’s mediator Benito Antognoli explains that prior to the launch of the online program, the first in-person mediation session between borrowers and lenders often only lasted about 20-30 minutes and required the parties to attend subsequent mediations. Most often, the brevity of this first meeting stemmed from borrowers being unable to fully respond to forms from the lender’s attorney since, due to the nature of the forms, they do not have the required documentation with them. As Antognoli highlights, the difficulty of having to make accommodations and find time to attend additional mediations is often a substantial inconvenience for both parties.

However, with the new ODR program, borrowers and lenders are now able to complete this process remotely. As Antognoli describes, once a borrower has opted-in to the program they will receive an email that invites them to the platform. From there, the lender’s attorney will request various documents from the borrower, which the borrower can now submit online at their convenience. Additionally, the online platform also now allows Antognoli to be involved during the entire process and communicate with the parties regularly. Like the in-person program, the entire online process is intended to take about 90 days from start-to-finish. Ultimately, the press release notes that Judge Pittman’s hope is to expand the use of online mediation and offer ODR programs to parties involved in other types of civil disputes.

Those interested in learning more about the program or accessing the court’s press release, should please contact Antognoli at 330-298-3233.

The Psychological Complications of Resolving Disputes Online

Jennifer Shack, October 28th, 2019

Online dispute resolution (ODR) can take many different forms, but one element is always present: the participants aren’t interacting in person. Jean Sternlight explores the possible psychological impact of this in her new article, “Pouring a Little Psychological Cold Water on ODR” (forthcoming 2020 Journal of Dispute Resolution).

It should be noted that before discussing the psychology of disputes and ODR, Sternlight opines that the term ODR is used too broadly as it’s used for any technology-assisted dispute resolution. Although she doesn’t state what she means by ODR in her article, the way in which she discusses it points to the conclusion that she is focused more on text-based and algorithmic processes rather than video-based processes.

Starting from the premise that “human disputes are intimately connected to human psychology,” Sternlight states that ODR should be designed to take into account human psychology and that requires an imaginative approach to determining whether and how to incorporate technology into dispute resolution. Even given this, however, she says that we should consider the possibility that humans are better suited than computers to resolve many disputes.

Sternlight explores the psychology of dispute resolution through four areas: the psychology of perception and memory, the psychology of human wants, the psychology of communication, and judgment and decision-making. Perception and memory often differ among those involved in a dispute. In in-person disputes, mediators and lawyers currently take on the role of overcoming parties’ beliefs that their perception is correct and the only possible version. Sternlight questions whether a computer or avatar can have the same effect, as research has found that simply receiving a message on a computer or reading a book aren’t sufficient to shake one’s belief that theirs is the only right view.

When it comes to human wants, people are complex. We don’t always know what we want, and when we do, we often have many different wants, or our wants may change over time. Further, each person may have different wants in the same circumstances. Because of this, Sternlight suggests that “computers are not likely the best tool for helping humans think through how they want to respond to a dispute, and how they might creatively work things out with a fellow disputant.” She concludes that ODR may best be used for disputes that involve wants that are simple and predictable, such as small online purchases.

Communication is another area in which computers may not provide the best forum, although Sternlight does say that computers may make communication easier by enabling fast and low-cost exchanges, and by allowing for the anonymity that some prefer. However, many ODR platforms rely on check boxes and limited exchange of textual information. This does not permit disputants to communicate fully their broad range of beliefs and concerns nor learn about those of the other party. Textual communications also make it difficult to build trust or rapport among disputants.

Sternlight also believes that human mediators, lawyers or friends are more effective than computers in helping humans deal with their emotions and other judgment and decision-making issues. She notes that a trusted person is more likely than a computer to move a disputant off an unreasonable position, even if both convey the same information.  Humans can build rapport and trust and tell persuasive stories, whereas being provided information on a chart or in text will not be as useful.

Sternlight acknowledges that online processes may have their place in dispute resolution, but to do so requires a system design that takes into account human psychology. To figure out how best to approach the resolution of disputes online, Sternlight says that empirical research is required of both online and in-person dispute resolution.

While some readers may not agree with Sternlight’s message, she does offer a thoughtful counterpoint to the current enthusiasm for ODR.

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.

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.

New Mexico Launches Nine ODR Pilot Programs

Nicole Wilmet, June 28th, 2019

On June 3, 2019, the Supreme Court of New Mexico announced the approval of nine new online dispute resolution (ODR) pilot programs to resolve debt and money due cases. The programs will run until June 30, 2020 and will operate in New Mexico’s Second, Sixth, and Ninth Judicial District Courts, Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court, and five Magistrate Courts in Curry County, Grant County, Hidalgo County, Luna County, and Roosevelt County. The Administrative Office of the Courts will be overseeing the pilot project and will appoint and certify mediators to serve in each of the programs. The courts will be using Tyler Technologies’ Modria® software for each of the programs.

Referral to the pilot programs will be mandatory for all applicable debt and money due cases. If the parties enter into a settlement agreement through the pilot program, then their agreement will be put into writing, signed and filed with  the court using the Modria software. In the event the parties do not reach a settlement agreement within thirty days, then the court may either grant an extension to continue the parties’ use of ODR or schedule a date for trial or other hearing. The Supreme Court of New Mexico will be using these nine pilot programs to consider expanding the ODR program to courts statewide.