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Just Court ADR

The blog of Resolution Systems Institute

My Favorite Resource Featuring Debora Denny

Nicole Wilmet, April 2nd, 2018
Last month, we launched our new series My Favorite Resource where we reach out to court ADR friends across the country to learn about their favorite ADR resource. This month, we spoke with Debora Denny, the Director of the Nebraska Office of Dispute Resolution, to learn about her favorite resource.
NW: What is your favorite ADR resource?

DD: Restorative Justice Dialogue: An Essential Guide for Research and Practice, by Mark Umbreit and Marilyn Peterson Amour, with forward by Howard Zehr.

NW: Why do you value this particular resource?

DD:  Nebraska Office of Dispute Resolution (“ODR”) and its six regional ODR-approved mediation centers are implementing a three-year statewide juvenile restorative justice program in what we are calling “Victim Youth Conferencing.” This model is what was formerly called Victim Offender Mediation or Victim Offender Dialogue. Dr. Mark Umbreit and his colleagues from the University of Minnesota Center on Restorative Justice and Peacemaking have been our partners since 2015 on a prior successful VYC pilot. I used this book to help me write the original grant proposal to fund the pilot, as well as to assist me in developing training objectives and policy protocols. It was extremely timely and useful.

NW: How did you first learn about this resource?

DD:  I knew about Dr. Umbreit and his VOM work from the 1990s when he came to Nebraska to teach at the Office of Dispute Resolution and the ODR mediation centers about VOM and Restorative Justice. When I began researching RJ a few years ago, I immediately searched for Dr. Umbreit’s name and found this book.

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

DD: This book contains a spectrum of RJ practices, including, VOM, RJ Dialogue, Family Group Conferencing, Peacemaking Circle, Culture and Spirituality. It contains cited references to research and evidence-based practices that made the difference to funders and justice system administrators who are requiring evidence-based practice.

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!

Western District of Pennsylvania’s Updates to ADR Policy and Procedures Affect Process for Bringing Sanctions

Nicole Wilmet, March 30th, 2018

In February, the Western District of Pennsylvania released an order to update the court’s ADR policy and procedures, specifically regarding the procedure used for bringing sanctions. This month, the court released a second order with a minor amendment to the February updates.

The impetus behind these changes, as reported in a recent article from the Allegheny County Bar Association Lawyers Journal, stems from an increase in attorneys filing motions for sanctions related to ADR. As the Lawyers Journal explains, a significant amount of the sanctions filed alleged that parties attend mediation in bad faith with no intent to settle or lack the authority to reach an agreement. In response to a call from judges and practitioners to modify the court’s policies, the court’s Case Management/ADR Committee asked Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan to lead an ad hoc subcommittee to propose rule changes to deter motions for sanctions. The changes developed by the ad hoc subcommittee were then instituted by Judge Joy Flowers Conti in the February and March orders.

The largest modification to the court’s policies is the addition of a good faith definition and a new process for bringing motions for sanctions. Under the order, the court defines “good faith” as a “duty of the parties to meet and negotiate with a willingness to reach an agreement.” Additionally, the order mandates that any party who is scheduled for a mediation and either (1) does not intend to make a settlement demand or offer or (2) is waiting for the disposition of a certain motion before settlement discussions must now inform the mediator and the other parties of their intent no later than 15 days before the mediation. Originally, the February order gave the parties 10 days to share this intent with the mediator and other parties but the March order modified and extended this deadline to 15 days.

The most notable modification found under the order is an appendix, which outlines the new process for bringing sanctions and makes the process more arduous. Under the appendix, any party filing a motion for sanctions regarding ADR, must first serve the other party their proposed motion for sanctions. Then the parties have 14 days to discuss and try to resolve the issues raised in the motion. If the parties are able to resolve their issues, nothing further is required. However, if the parties are not able to resolve their issues, then the party filing for sanctions must first file a Notice of Intent to file for sanctions and certificate confirming the parties discussed the motion and were unable to resolve the issues raised. The certificate must also identify whether the parties agree or disagree that resolving the motion will implicate confidential information. Once the party’s Notice of Intent is filed, the court will then schedule a conference in an attempt to resolve the issues before the motion for sanctions is filed.

The court’s full policies and procedures, including these recent updates, can be found here.

Introducing Mediation Efficacy Studies

Just Court ADR, March 28th, 2018

Have you ever wondered whether court mediation really saves time and money?

If so, we are thrilled to share our new Mediation Efficacy Studies resource with you! Our brilliant Director of Research Jennifer Shack brought her extensive experience studying court ADR to this project — curating, categorizing and summarizing reliable research about whether court mediation really saves time and money, and whether participants experience procedural justice.

This new part of our website is built on Jen’s popular Bibliographic Summary of Cost, Pace, and Satisfaction Studies of Court-Related Mediation Programs and is the most comprehensive collection of resources on the effectiveness of court mediation available anywhere.

The studies cover a range of case types including civil, family, small claims, victim-offender, workers’ compensation, bankruptcy and appellate cases. Plus, with the new online format, the information is searchable by various characteristics, such as case type and whether the study used comparison groups.

We are thrilled to share this new resource with you! Please let us know what you think, and as always we appreciate your support of RSI.

My Favorite Resource Featuring Heather Scheiwe Kulp

Nicole Wilmet, March 2nd, 2018

In February, we launched a new section in our Court ADR Connection newsletter entitled My Favorite Resource. My Favorite Resource will feature brief interviews with individuals engaged in the world of alternative dispute resolution to learn what their favorite ADR resource is.

For our inaugural post, our Resource Center Director Nicole Wilmet had the pleasure of reaching out to Heather Scheiwe Kulp, the Alternative Dispute Resolution Coordinator for the Office of Mediation and Arbitration in New Hampshire. Heather is also a former Skadden Fellow and RSI employee. During her time at RSI, Heather authored several resources that you can find here.

NW: What is one of your favorite ADR resources? 

HSK: I frequently turn to Designing Systems and Processes for Managing Disputes, a “textbook” by Nancy H. Rogers, Robert C. Bordone, Frank E. A. Sander, and Craig A. McEwen. It’s much more than a textbook, really, as it has a comprehensive method for planning, designing, implementing, and evaluating dispute systems. So, I’ve found the resource translates easily between my multiple “hats,” whether I’m wearing my trainer hat, academic/professor hat, designer hat, or evaluator hat.

NW: Why do you value this particular resource? 

HSK: It is written in a conversational, rather than high-brow, style, yet it is packed with data and additional citations. So, practitioners and academics alike can get what they need from it. I particularly appreciate that the authors start with theory and move to practical recommendations for how to implement best practices. It also includes really helpful case studies, showing you how actual people can do—and successfully have done—what they recommend.

NW: How did you first learn about this resource?

HSK: I was on faculty with one of the authors, Robert Bordone, at the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program. There, we implemented the design steps from this text in our clinic projects. We lived this material, and it was helpful to see how it played out in practice.

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

HSK: The case studies are great examples of how DSD (Dispute System Design) principles can be tailored to address a variety of challenges, from international peacemaking efforts to online consumer disputes. It also makes DSD seem accessible; with this text, you feel like you could actually begin helping an organization, country, or societal system you care about manage conflict better.

Do you have a favorite ADR resource you would like to share? If so, please reach out to our Resource Center Director Nicole Wilmet at!


Do Android Mediators Dream of Electric Agreements?

Eric Slepak, January 30th, 2018

With the new year being still fresh enough that some of us, and hopefully not just me, continue to write 2017 on their checks, the future is at the forefront of many of our minds. Whether we’re setting ambitious goals for the year to come, or just looking forward to putting the previous year behind us, I think it’s pretty natural for us to spend this time of year fixated on the road ahead. For me, this has translated into thinking a lot about the cutting edge of the ADR field: Online Dispute Resolution, or ODR. Read the rest of this entry »