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Just Court ADR

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My Favorite Resource Featuring Annalise Buth

Just Court ADR, November 2nd, 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 Annalise Buth, M.R. Bauer Foundation Fellow in Dispute Resolution at the Center on Negotiation and Mediation at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law Bluhm Legal Clinic to learn about her favorite resource.

NW: What is your favorite resource?

AB: I would like to share about the combination of two restorative justice resources that I value. The first is the book Peacemaking Circles: From Crime to Community by Kay Pranis, Barry Stuart, & Mark Wedge. It provides an explanation of the theoretical framework of the circle process. The second resource is the guide Heart of Hope by Carolyn Boyes-Watson & Kay Pranis, which provides suggestions and ideas for circles.

NW: Why do you value these particular resources?

AB: Restorative justice theory informs practice, and practice informs theory. The combination of these resources is helpful in building an understanding of theory and supporting practice. I share them with students and others who are interested in learning and developing their skills.

NW: How did you first learn about these resources?

AB: I learned about these resources from a friend who is also a circle facilitator. Ultimately, my relationships with others are my most valuable resource.

NW: For those unfamiliar with these resources, what is one part of this resource that you wouldn’t want someone to miss?

AB: There is a section of appendices in Heart of Hope that includes examples of circle openings, closings, check-ins, topics and round prompts. The examples can be adapted for different situations and needs.

If you have a favorite resource you would like to share, please reach out to our Resource Center Director Nicole Wilmet at nwilmet@aboutrsi.org!

RSI Hosts Child Protection Mediator Training for Kane County Program

Eric Slepak-Cherney, October 31st, 2018

About eighteen months ago, we trained our first cohort of volunteer neutrals to co-mediate child protection cases in our newest court program. That training was the culmination of nearly two years of program development, in which we developed court rules and program procedures, and brought together stakeholders all in service of a shared vision to offer stability to vulnerable children. Since then, the program has assisted in over two dozen cases, providing a forum for over 150 family members, social workers, GALs and others to work out the roadblocks facing them.

On September 29-30, we trained our second cohort. Though a smaller group than the original, we are astounded at the depth of experiences they bring to the Kane County, Illinois Child Protection Mediation Program. Their backgrounds include running law, mediation and coaching practices, as well as serving in the State’s Attorney’s office. Given these cases often come loaded with emotional firepower and complex interpersonal dynamics, it is a real boon to have such accomplished neutrals with a real diversity of experience.

When we did our last training, I wrote up my takeaways, and thankfully, those lessons held up well! One other lesson we learned from surveys administered following the last training was that people left feeling apprehensive about how prepared they were to mediate these cases. Some part of that apprehension in unavoidable – we were asking our volunteers to step into a brand new program to mediate emotionally fraught, multi-party cases that few neutrals ever have the opportunity to mediate! To the extent we were able to, this time around, we as the trainers addressed that fear more directly: naming it, validating it, sharing stories about times we failed and how we rebounded.

I think we in the ADR field have an archetype of the ideal neutral as someone who confidently controls the room and the process. There’s good reason to hold that standard up, but we also have to remember it takes time, experience and at least some failure to reach that level. If our most recent training reassured our mediators of that so they can more confidently go forward and serve these families, I’m content to call it a success.

A huge thank you to our trainers Stephanie Senuta, Kevin Malone and Susan Yates. We are grateful to the Court Improvement Program and the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts for providing the funding to put on this training*,  and to the 16th Judicial Circuit Court of Kane County, Illinois and Flavors of North America International for furnishing the space for this training.

*In September 2015, the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation awarded Resolution Systems Institute $40,000 to develop the pilot Child Protection Mediation Program in conjunction with the 16th Judicial Circuit Court of Illinois in Kane County. That funding was supplemented in July 2016, when the Illinois Bar Foundation awarded RSI $5,000 to support the program’s mediators. Most recently, for the 2018 fiscal year, RSI has been awarded $40,000 from the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts’ State Court Improvement Program. Overall, $40,000 of the Kane County Child Protection Mediation Program’s.

Trainer Stephanie Senuta and Kane County Mediation Programs Manager Kevin Malone leading a session during the September training.

Introducing the Community Mediation Special Topic

Nicole Wilmet, October 26th, 2018

We are pleased to introduce a new special topic on community mediation to AboutRSI.org! Written in collaboration with the National Association for Community Mediation, our latest special topic takes an in-depth look at community mediation.

Inside the special topic you will find everything you need to know about community mediation including the basics, the relationship between courts and community mediation centers, and how tracking and evaluating mediation can help community mediation centers. Additionally, our community mediation special topic offers a compilation of exemplary studies on the effectiveness of community mediation, other processes that centers use, and information that can help centers to better address issues surrounding the provision of services.

We hope you enjoy this new resource as much as we do!

My Favorite Resource Featuring Catherine Geyer

Just Court ADR, October 1st, 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 Catherine Geyer, Manager of the Dispute Resolution Section, Supreme Court of Ohio, to learn about her favorite resource.

NW: What is your favorite ADR Resource?

CG: My favorite resource is my network of experienced and talented dispute resolution colleagues from Ohio and across the country. I am fortunate to be minutes away from one of the top-ranked dispute resolution programs in the country at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Ohio is fortunate to have a wealth of experienced, dedicated and knowledgeable dispute resolution professionals at OSU and throughout the state. On a regular basis, usually quarterly and over the lunch hour, we meet to discuss dispute resolution developments and challenges with the law professors, mediators and other dispute resolution professionals. Also, throughout the year, the Supreme Court of Ohio Dispute Resolution Section conducts roundtables with the court-connected dispute resolution professionals. Through these regular, planned meetings and roundtables we discuss trends, statewide rules, ethics, and the gamut of dispute resolution topics.

In addition, I am a member of the ABA’s Dispute Resolution Section and Court ADR Committee which both have a collective knowledge on dispute resolution that fills courthouses across the nation and the world. To my great fortune, those individuals are generous with their thought, time, energy, innovation and experience. At the ABA Section on Dispute Resolution’s Annual Spring Conference, there is updated content on a variety of topics including an entire day of content for courts, called the Court Symposium hosted by the ABA’s Court ADR Committee. From my perspective since joining the Supreme Court of Ohio’s Dispute Resolution Section three years ago after many years in the private sector, the ABA Section on Dispute Resolution and Court ADR Committee are akin to a virtual library, absent the Dewey Decimal System, of course.

NW: For those unfamiliar, what do typical quarterly lunches and ABA Court ADR Committee monthly calls look like?

CG: The quarterly lunches are informal and unstructured although I usually jot down some bullet points to talk about in advance and during our discussions. The monthly calls with the ABA Court ADR Committee are more structured and this year’s co-chairs, Alan Weiner from Maryland and Robyn Weinstein from New York, do a great job creating an agenda and focusing on topics that are most important to the members and to the committee’s goals.

NW: Can you recall a time when you turned to this network for support?

CG: Yes, once the network is established, it is easier to contact one another as issues arise. The Ohio colleagues were instrumental in helping with our first statewide dispute resolution conference in March.  The Court ADR Committee had a discussion on one call where everyone was sharing information on their state’s initiatives. One of the members had been working on child protection mediation and offered valuable insights and resources, and then [RSI Executive Director] Susan Yates provided additional information on the same topic. That was helpful to me because in Ohio the Commission on Dispute Resolution recommended a statewide initiative on child protection mediation to address the influx of cases in the juvenile courts related to opioids and other substance abuse issues. Although we have offered child protection mediation in Ohio for a long time, the new information from others on the call brought a fresh perspective on a national level that was useful. The information I learned on our call gave me a direct resource to research and information that I would not have otherwise found so readily.

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

CG: So much. The creativity, innovation, passion, experience and collaboration.

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

CG: Traditional print resources or online resources are helpful, but there is no substitute for experience. Taking time to establish a network, or taking advantage of an established network like the ABA’s Court ADR Committee, takes academic information and translates it into practical tips and advice. These networks also build camaraderie and a pre-planned, informal place to convene to discuss and explore emerging and challenging topics. I am grateful for these networks and encourage others to take advantage of them.

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 nwilmet@aboutrsi.org!

State Certification Board and Court-Contracted Mediation Services Heather Scheiwe Kulp

Heather Scheiwe Kulp, September 27th, 2018

In this guest post, Heather Scheiwe Kulp, the Alternative Dispute Resolution Coordinator for the New Hampshire Judicial Branch Office of Mediation & Arbitration reports on the connection between the state of New Hampshire’s family mediator certification board and the New Hampshire Circuit Court—Family Division ADR program. The Court contracts only with board-certified mediators to provide parties in divorce/parenting cases with mediation services. Earlier in her career, Heather was a Skadden Fellow at RSI.

In 1990, the New Hampshire legislature enacted legislation (RSA 328-C) creating the Family Mediator Certification Board (the “Board”) to certify family mediators and family mediator training programs. The statute gave the Board rule-making authority under the Administrative Procedure Act (RSA 541-A), thus housing family mediator certification functions in the executive branch. The purpose of the legislation was (and still is) to “protect and assist the public by providing standards for the practice of family mediation, training and continuing education for certified family mediators and certified family mediator training programs, and disciplinary procedures for violating ethical rules and requirements.” RSA 328-C:1. While most of RSA 328-C addresses the Board’s duties, the legislation does address some aspects of family mediation that are independent of the board: RSA 328-C:2(VI-V) defines “family mediator” and “family mediation”; and RSA 328-C:9 creates a mediation confidentiality for all family mediation, not just family mediation conducted by certified family mediators.

In 2015, the Board became part of the State’s Office of Professional Licensure and Certification—Technical Division. The duties of the 11-member Board include establishing eligibility criteria to be a certified family mediator, adopting ethical standards, and disciplining mediators after conducting complaint investigations. To fulfill its duties, the Board promulgates Administrative Rules and Practice Standards. These Rules and Standards inform mediator practice and establish what mediators must do to remain certified, including renewing their certification every three years. The Rules and Standards are also the criteria by which any complaints of misconduct are evaluated, investigated and determined.

In 2007, the New Hampshire legislature established (RSA 490-E) the Office of Mediation and Arbitration (the “Office”) within the Judicial Branch. The Office is responsible for developing and supporting alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) programs in all courts and in pre-suit situations when ADR might be appropriate. Duties include contracting with, assigning, and overseeing court-contracted mediators, including family mediators.

Circuit Court Administrative Order 2014-11 sets out the criteria for family mediators who contract with the Court, including that a mediator “maintain [family mediator] certification at all times while contracted as a mediator with the family division of the Circuit Court.” Admin. Order 2014-11(2). Parties in a divorce or parenting case are welcome to choose their own private mediator, regardless of whether the mediator is certified. However, the Judicial Branch only contracts with (and therefore only assigns and only compensates for cases with indigent parties) family mediators who are certified pursuant to RSA 328-C. Fam. Div. Rule 2.13.

Currently, the Court contracts with approximately 40 certified family mediators to provide over 3000 court-assigned divorce or parenting mediation sessions per year. Most of these mediators also provide mediation services to private clients.

The Board and the Court have some interaction. The primary interaction is that the Court requires court-contracted mediators to be Board-certified. Thus, if a family mediator loses certification or chooses to let certification lapse, the Court terminates the mediator’s contract.  Also, the Board includes two Judicial Branch officers: one judge who regularly sits in the Family Division; and one full-time marital master. These officers share perspectives about issues before the Board that impact the Court. At times, the Board will reach out to the Office to learn more about how an issue may impact Court-based ADR. For instance, this summer, the Judicial Branch—including the Office—was invited to provide comments at the public hearing (or in writing) about the Board’s Administrative Rules changes.