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Archive for the ‘Pilot Program’ Category

Utah Small Claims Court Launches New Online Dispute Resolution Pilot Program

Nicole Wilmet, December 3rd, 2018

In September, the Utah Supreme Court initiated an online dispute resolution (“ODR”) pilot program. The pilot program, which is housed at Utah’s West Valley City Justice Court, handles the court’s small claims cases. In its standing order announcing the program, the Utah Supreme Court says it believes that the new pilot program “will increase the participation rate of parties, assist the parties in resolving their disputes, and improve the quality and presentation of evidence at trial in those matters that cannot be resolved.”

Under the new program, plaintiffs must now either register for the court’s new ODR system within seven days of filing their claim or file a request for exemption from ODR. After being served with a claim, defendants will have fourteen days to either register for an ODR account or seek an exemption from participating in ODR. Parties will only be excused from participating in the ODR program for undue hardships. The court notes that undue hardships exist when parties are unable to access the online system without substantial difficulty or expense.

Parties utilizing the ODR system will work with a facilitator who will guide the parties through the ODR process and assist them in reaching a settlement. Facilitators will inform the parties of the process to be followed, the types of communications that parties may use, and establish timelines for the parties. Additionally, facilitators may request that the parties provide information and evidence about the merits of the case, their ability to pay, responses to the other party’s information, and their position on any proposed resolution of the plaintiff’s claim. Facilitators are also able to communicate privately with any party, at any time, for the purposes of facilitating a resolution.

Should the parties reach a settlement, they then may request their facilitator to prepare their online settlement agreement form, which will detail the terms of their agreement. Once completed, the court will enter the judgement. In the event that the parties are unable to reach a settlement, the facilitator will notify the court and the court will schedule a trial date for the parties. More information about the pilot program, including access to the court’s forms, may be found here.

U.S. District Court for Eastern Michigan Launches Pilot Mediation Program for Pro Se Prisoners

Nicole Wilmet, August 27th, 2018

In June, the U.S. District Court for Eastern Michigan launched a two-year pilot mediation program for pro se prisoners. The Early Mediation Program for Pro Se Prisoner Civil Rights Cases will offer mediation as an alternative to litigation for pro se prisoners who have filed federal civil rights lawsuits against the Michigan Department of Corrections (“MDOC”). In its press release, the court reports that, in 2017, Michigan prisoners filed 248 civil rights suits in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Among these cases, 97% of prisoners were pro se litigants.

Under the new pilot program, the District County Clerk’s Office notifies pro se prisoners about the pilot program when they file. After filing, court staff attorneys screen the prisoners’ civil rights cases. As the court explains, screening eliminates about half of the lawsuits filed due to prisoners’ not stating a legal claim, suing the wrong party, or seeking damages from someone who is entitled to legal immunity. If a case makes it through this screening, prisoners are required to watch an orientation video about the program. They also receive a packet from the court that contains additional information about the program, as well as information on how to file a motion to be excluded from the program. After screening, prisoner civil rights suits are stayed for 90 days and then referred to mediation.

As the court expounds, prisoners who choose to participate in the mediation program will participate in mediation via video conferencing from prison. Meanwhile, the mediator, prison officials, and a state lawyer will interact with prisoners during mediation from the Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse in Detroit. If parties are able to reach a settlement during mediation, the parties’ agreement will be added to the record and the court will enter an order dismissing the case, but will retain jurisdiction to enforce the terms of agreement. If parties do not settle the case within 90 days, the case will proceed forward in the litigation process.

With respect to neutrals, the court notes that 40 lawyers who have completed Paul Monicatii’s mediator training curriculum will serve as the program’s mediators. These mediators will be participating in the program without compensation.

Those interested in learning more about the program may read more about it here or contact David Ashenfelter, Public Information Officer for the U.S. District Court for Eastern Michigan, at David_Ashenfelter@mied.uscourts.gov to obtain a copy of the press release.

Virginia Appellate Courts to Launch Pilot Mediation Program

Nicole Wilmet, June 28th, 2018

This month, the Supreme Court of Virginia and the Court of Appeals of Virginia released a press release announcing the launch of a two-year pilot appellate court mediation program that will begin on January 1, 2019. The mediation program will only be available in select civil cases where both parties are represented by legal counsel. Additionally, in the Court of Appeals, mediation will be available for equitable distribution and/or related attorneys fee disputes. Mediation will also be available for Supreme Court cases where a petition for appeal has been granted. In both courts, the Clerk of each court will notify counsel that, if both parties agree to mediate, there will be an automatic stay of proceedings for 30 days to allow for mediations to occur.

The genesis behind the pilot program stems from recommendations made by the Special Committee to Study Appellate Mediation in Virginia. In 2017, the Special Committee was created at the request of Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons, the Joint Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee of the Virginia State Bar (“VSB”), and the Virginia Bar Association (“VBA”). Members of the Special Committee included representatives from both appellate courts, appellate litigation representatives from the VSB and the VBA, leaders from the Joint ADR Committee and the Dispute Resolution Services Manager from the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia.

In addition to recommending the creation of the pilot program, the Special Committee also recommended a new level of certification for appellate mediators during the pilot projects. The request for a new level of certification will be presented to the judicial council for adoption later this year. The full report from the Special Committee can be found here.