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Archive for the ‘Pilot Program’ Category

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’ Third Judicial Circuit Launches Pilot Family Law Mediation Program for Pro Se Litigants

Nicole Wilmet, January 31st, 2020

In November, Illinois’ Third Judicial Circuit announced its receipt of a grant from the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice. The grant’s funds have allowed the Circuit to create a pilot family law mediation program for divorce and family cases that involve two self-represented litigants. Angela Wille, the Circuit’s Self-Represented Litigant Coordinator, is managing the grant along with Associate Judge Maureen Schutte, Supervising Judge of the Family Division.

In the announcement, Chief Judge William A. Mudge said, “this is a great opportunity for families in Madison County to meet with a certified, neutral third-party mediator and attempt to reach a mutual agreement regarding issues pertaining to their children and/or their property.”

The court began referring cases to the program in December 2019.

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.

Arizona Launches ODR Pilot Programs to Handle Family Court Cases

Nicole Wilmet, April 29th, 2019

In August 2018, the Supreme Court of Arizona released an Administrative Order authorizing the Superior Courts in both the Pinal and Yuma Counties to utilize an online dispute resolution (ODR) pilot project for family court cases. Both programs are approved to run for 12 months from the date of their implementation. Last year, the Yuma County program launched their program on December 3, 2018, and the Pinal County program recently launched their program on March 25, 2019. Both programs are free to parties and, in most cases, eliminate the need for parties to go to the courthouse. The decision of which cases are eligible to participate in the program are made by each county’s Conciliation Service Departments (“CSD”). According to the press releases for both programs, when selecting cases to participate in the program, the CSD will consider “the issue to be decided and other factors.”

To learn more about each of these ODR pilot programs, this month I spoke with Nicole LaConte, Court Program Specialist at the Arizona Administrative Office of the Courts. The vendor for both programs is Court Innovations. After the CSD has identified eligible cases for the program, the CSD then uploads the parties’ information into the platform and the platform sends a notice to the parties inviting them to participate. Once a party agrees to participate, a facilitator is assigned to their case. The facilitators for the ODR program are current members of the CSD staff who are trained court mediators. Aside from learning how to utilize the platform, these facilitators are not required to undergo any specific technology training. The platform is designed so that the communication between the parties and the facilitators is asynchronistic, meaning that parties have 24-hour access the ODR platform. As a result, they can upload materials, communicate, and respond to their court facilitator at their convenience. In Pinal, the platform is designed so that the facilitator can speak to only one party at a time and the court is currently working on adding the ability for the facilitator to speak to the parties at the same time. Additionally, in Yuma, the platform was structured so that the Attorney General can also participate if the parties are deciding something that affects child support.

The program was designed for parties to access the service from their own personal computer or mobile device without having to go to the courthouse. Although similar, one notable difference between the two programs is that the Yuma program will be handling only post-decree cases and the Pinal program will be handling both pre-decree and post-decree cases. The goals for both programs is to broaden litigants’ access to the court and reduce the number of court hearings. To evaluate the programs, litigant satisfaction surveys will be sent out and the court will measure the time to disposition as well as the reduction in court hearings. Since both programs are currently in the pilot stage, there is no information about the programs in either county’s court rules. However, additional information about the programs is available at both the Yuma County ODR program website and the Pinal County ODR program website.