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Just Court ADR

The blog of Resolution Systems Institute

AAA-ICDR Foundation Grant Opportunity

Just Court ADR, July 15th, 2020

The American Arbitration Association International Centre for Dispute Resolution Foundation has announced a new grant opportunity that will award one or two grants, up to a total of $250,000 each, to support programs that will address either of the following: (1) COVID-19 Response or (2) Racial Injustice Response. Eligible programs must have the capacity to become operational in a short period of time, serve a significant diverse number of people, and make their work available to generate easy replication. Interested organizations must submit a preliminary application by August 14, 2020. 

The Effect of Attendance on Litigant Perceptions of Fairness

Jennifer Shack, June 30th, 2020

Litigant attendance at a dispute resolution process impacts their assessment of the fairness of that process, according to research conducted by Donna Shestowsky. The impact of litigant attendance differs for settlement and adjudicative procedures. As she notes in her article, “Great Expectations? Comparing Litigants’ Attitudes Before and After Using Legal Procedures” (Law and Human Behavior, June 2020) [sub. req.], this has implications for how lawyers shape their clients’ perceptions of individual procedures. 

This is the fifth in a series of articles presenting different aspects of her research into the decision-making of litigants in civil cases. Previous articles reported that litigants prefer mediation, looked at what they wanted from a dispute resolution process, discussed their lack of awareness of what options were available to them and noted that litigants were most likely to select a process based on their lawyer’s advice. The research is based on surveys of litigants in three jurisdictions (in California, Oregon and Utah), that offered both mediation and arbitration options to the surveyed litigants. 

For this aspect of the research, 335 litigants completed surveys soon after their case was filed and were interviewed within three weeks after their case ended. Among the questions asked at the outset of their case was how attractive different procedures were to them. These included all the options available to them for their case, which Shestowsky divided into settlement procedures (mediation and negotiation) and adjudicative procedures (trial and arbitration) when analyzing the results. After their case ended, they were asked how fair they thought the procedure was and whether they attended that procedure. 

Shestowsky found that when litigants attended a settlement procedure used to resolve their case, they rated that procedure as fairer than those litigants who attended an adjudicative procedure. However, when litigants did not attend the procedure used to resolve their case, they saw settlement and adjudicative procedures as similarly fair. When comparing attendance within procedures, she found that attendance did not affect fairness ratings for settlement procedures, but that those who attended an adjudicative procedure rated the procedure as less fair than those who did not attend the procedure.

Attendance also interacted with the litigants’ initial perceptions of the dispute resolution processes. Litigants who rated the procedure they used more negatively at the outset of their case saw that procedure as fairer if they attended the procedure than if they did not. On the other hand, Shestowsky found that those who were attracted to a procedure at the outset of their case rated that procedure as less fair if they attended the procedure than if they did not. For litigants who did not attend the procedure, their initial rating of the procedure did not affect their perception of its fairness at the end of the case. 

Shestowsky states that these findings raise questions about the role lawyers play in shaping their clients’ perceptions of individual procedures before they are used, as well as their perceptions after the case ends if their clients do not attend, particularly since litigants said their lawyer’s advice was the most important factor in their selection of the process. She notes that it is possible that some lawyers set up expectations in such a way that litigants who attend a dispute resolution process are let down by the reality of their experience. Alternatively, lawyers who discuss what happened in a procedure that their clients did not attend may paint a picture that is highly satisfactory to those clients. 

Welcome Michelle!

Just Court ADR, June 4th, 2020

RSI is delighted to welcome Michelle Hunt to our staff as our summer intern! Michelle is currently a student at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. This summer Michelle will be working with Resource Center Director Nicole Wilmet on a variety of projects and research related to court ADR, restorative justice and diversity and inclusion. 

Welcome Oladeji!

Just Court ADR, June 3rd, 2020

RSI is delighted to welcome Oladeji Tiamiyu to our staff as a PILI Fellow this summer. Oladeji recently graduated from Harvard University Law School. This summer Oladeji will be working with Associate Director Eric Slepak-Cherney on projects and research related to online dispute resolution.

Bernalillo County Launching Landlord – Tenant Mediation Program in Response to COVID-19

Nicole Wilmet, June 2nd, 2020

In March, in response to COVID-19, the New Mexico Supreme Court issued a temporary halt on orders to forcibly remove tenants. This month, in response to the state’s supreme court order, Bernalillo County announced its plan to launch a free mediation program for landlord-tenant disputes. The program is intended to assist landlords and tenants that are struggling to pay rent as a result of the pandemic to create workable rent payment arrangements.  

Judge Frank Sedillo, who is spearheading the program, clarified that tenants eligible to participate in the program must prove that they are unable to pay rent as a result of the pandemic. In a recent interview about the program, Judge Sedillo said, “What we’re hoping to do is help landlords and tenants resolve their disputes so that after the emergency is over the tenants will be able to stay on the property longer and the landlords will hopefully be able to work out some payment arrangements.”

The program launched May 11th and has about a dozen mediators, who are either former judges or attorneys, that are assisting with the program. Individuals who are interested in either participating in the Landlord-Tenant Settlement Program or serving as a volunteer settlement facilitator should contact the court’s Mediation Division at 505-841-8167.