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Just Court ADR

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Support RSI Through AmazonSmile This Prime Day

Just Court ADR, July 16th, 2018

Today is Amazon Prime Day! Are you participating? If so, you can support RSI through AmazonSmile!

When you support RSI on AmazonSmile, Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchase to RSI! You can register to support RSI through AmazonSmile here.

We appreciate and thank you for your support! 


Mayor Thomas McNamara Declares July 11, 2018 Resolution Systems Institute Day

Just Court ADR, July 12th, 2018

Yesterday, during our summer staff gathering in Rockford, we received a wonderful surprise! During our picnic, Matthew Flores, Assistant City Attorney for the City of Rockford, presented Susan Yates, RSI’s Executive Director, with a Proclamation signed by the City of Rockford Mayor Thomas McNamara which declared July 11, 2018 as Resolution Systems Institute Day!

In 2013, RSI received a grant from the Illinois Attorney General to incubate foreclosure mediation in Illinois. In November 2014, RSI began the 17th Judicial Circuit Court Foreclosure Mediation program. By the end of 2017, RSI assisted 694 homeowners with 202 home retentions. RSI’s grant will be ending August 31, 2018, at which time the 17th Circuit Foreclosure Mediation program will be taken over by the court.

RSI is pleased to have had the opportunity to work with the 17th Judicial Circuit and thanks Mayor McNamara for the recognition.

Matthew Flores, Assistant City Attorney for the City of Rockford, presents Susan Yates, RSI’s Executive Director, with Proclamation declaring July 11, 2018 as Resolution Systems Institute Day!


The Proclamation from Mayor Thomas McNamara

Retentions & Reflections: Thoughts from Illinois’ 17th Circuit Foreclosure Mediation Program Coordinator

Guest, July 6th, 2018

In 2013, RSI received a grant from the Illinois Attorney General to incubate foreclosure mediation in Illinois. This grant was funded by National Mortgage Settlement funds for a period of three years, later extended to five. This grant will be ending August 31, 2018, at which time the program will be taken over by the court. In this post, Sarah Flores, the Program Coordinator for the 17th Circuit Foreclosure Mediation Program, reflects on her experiences in the role.

Prior to becoming the Program Coordinator for the 17th Circuit Foreclosure Mediation Program, I didn’t know a lot about mediation. Before I became a program coordinator, I was a teacher and taught science and reading. As a teacher, I used mediation skills daily without even realizing it. When teachers ask questions, they need to listen and summarize, sometimes mentioning the emotions that students feel around the topic. Teachers have to make each student feel heard and active listening is a way to do this. Mediators do the same thing. They make each side feel heard, acknowledge emotions and summarize. After walking away from teaching, I have fallen in love with mediation in this position. I enjoy the satisfaction of making people feel heard and working through issues. Even though a parties’ issues may not be resolved in the end, they understand what they can do to resolve them.

I really enjoy being able to help people. Homeowners who are in foreclosure typically have not been there before and do not know how the process works or how to save their home. Empowering an individual who may feel helpless and undereducated about the process is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. Many times, even if the homeowner is not going to keep their house, they still are grateful for the program.

My best experience was getting to work with a couple who had given up completely. When they entered the program they were anxious about every step. I answered countless phone calls from them. In the end, they were able to keep their home and they were absolutely delighted with the result. Had they not been in the program, I am not sure that they would have followed through on all the steps to complete the retention process.

One of my worst experiences during my time as Program Coordinator involved working with a difficult homeowner who wanted to keep his home.  Even though I frequently clarified my role as a neutral party, the homeowner incorrectly thought that I could make the lender offer him better deals and that my mediator represented him. The homeowner wanted to negotiate a reinstatement amount, the lender would not negotiate on the amount. After several mediations where the homeowner did not have the funds, but kept stating that he would have them, the homeowner was removed from the program. I believe that had the homeowner been open to more options and better understood how the program worked, a more helpful solution could have been provided. Not all cases are negative, most cases that come through the program are positive and end with positive results.

The one thing I wish I could do is get homeowners to follow through. Although turning in the initial documents can seem daunting, especially to busy or elderly homeowners, it is an important task.  I try to help the best I can, but being a neutral party I can only do so much.

Though my time with RSI is coming to an end, I am glad I have the opportunity to continue doing this work. This is in large part due to the fact that the 17th Judicial Circuit has been an innovator in court ADR for decades. There was a lot of creative work that was done to keep the program financially viable after the grant comes to an end. That creativity shows this work is still valued even after the “foreclosure crisis” is over.

My Favorite Resource Featuring Rebecca Price

Just Court ADR, July 3rd, 2018

Our series, My Favorite Resource, features interviews with our court ADR friends across the country to learn about their favorite resource. This month, Resource Center Director Nicole Wilmet spoke with Rebecca Price, the Director of ADR Program at the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York (“SDNY”), to learn about her favorite ADR resource.

NW: What is your favorite ADR Resource?

RP: My favorite ADR resources are my colleagues in and around other court ADR programs. This includes the relatively small number of other full time directors of federal district court ADR programs, the Federal Judicial Center, the local Community Dispute Resolution Center programs, and the SDNY Mediator Advisory Committee. Many of these people have been doing this work for decades and have nuanced and practical perspectives about court-annexed ADR.

NW: Can you share an example of when you turned to your network for support?

RP: There are so many! As a recent example, the SDNY is currently exploring automatic protocols for both personal injury and disability access cases. I reached out to colleagues in other federal courts for information about existing protocols and am working with the SDNY Mediator Advisory Committee to develop draft protocols. In 2013, the SDNY partnered with the New York City Bar Association to develop a mediator evaluation protocol. One of our most useful resources was the Director of the Office of Court Alternative Dispute Resolution in Portland, Maine, whose protocol became the blueprint for ours.

NW: In what ways have you found that your network has been better able to serve your needs than a traditional print resource?

RP: The primary difference is that conversations are dynamic in ways that print resources are not. Designing and implementing ADR systems is complex and context dependent and a person resource can adjust recommendations based on specific constraints. For me, the ideal print resource would read more like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book than what is widely available. Having said that, I found the Maine program I referenced above in a footnote of a
journal article, so it’s important to cover your bases.

NW: What do you value most about the input you receive from other court personnel?

RP: It is so valuable to hear about what has worked or not, and why. There are some particularly special colleagues who can adjust their recommendations and information to the realities of different court programs. I also very much appreciate colleagues who speak candidly about mistakes. I learn from them and feel less isolated with my own challenges.

NW: How did you develop your network and what recommendations do you have for anyone looking to develop their own network?

RP: In an informal way, as I have worked in different places and with different people I have made connections with those I can reach out to and who can reach out to me. More intentionally, when I started my current position in 2012 there was no existing formal network for people in comparable roles. Through email and phone calls I was able to identify a group, create a listserv, and set up a date/time for monthly calls. I also realized early on that I would benefit greatly from an advisory committee of SDNY mediators. The first group created the protocols that have been followed by subsequent members, and we still meet monthly in person. What I would recommend for anyone wanting to build a network is that you create and maintain the space/time/modes of connection for the network itself, and that you commit to doing this for at least a couple of years if not more. It’s not magic, but someone needs to take responsibility for the consistency that allows networks to develop. Relatedly, the more you show up, engage, and support the efforts of others in and around your network, the more they will show up for you.

If you have a favorite resource you would like to share in an upcoming edition of our newsletter, please reach out to our Resource Center Director and Court ADR Connection Editor, Nicole Wilmet at!


Congratulations Kent Lawrence on Receiving The Hon. Gerald C. Bender Humanitarian Award

Just Court ADR, June 29th, 2018

The Board and Staff of RSI would like to congratulate Kent Lawrence on his receipt of the Decalogue Society of Lawyers​ Hon. Gerald C. Bender Humanitarian Award. The Hon. Gerald C. Bender Humanitarian Award is presented to individuals whose excellence and dedication demonstrate commitment to strive for justice by serving the community.

Kent Lawrence is a founder of RSI and continues to be a steadfast support of our mission of strengthening the justice system by enhancing alternative dispute resolution.

Were it not for the vision of Kent Lawrence, RSI would not exist and countless litigants would not have benefited from alternative forms of dispute resolution.

Congratulations Kent, we are very proud of you!

Kathy and Kent Lawrence and RSI’s Executive Director Susan Yates at the Decalogue Society of Lawyers 84th Annual Awards Dinner this past Wednesday, June 27, 2018.