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Just Court ADR

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Posts Tagged ‘foreclosure mediation’

End of One Era, Beginning of Another

Susan M. Yates, August 31st, 2018

August 31, 2018, will mark the end of an era at RSI. Our five-year foreclosure mediation grant from the Office of the Illinois Attorney General will come to an end.

This grant, which we received 15 years into our operation, was our opportunity to prove that when given sufficient resources, RSI could deliver the kind of quality court mediation program that we had been recommending to others all those years. I used terms like “practice what we preach,” “proof is in the pudding” and even, “put up or shut up!”

At that time, we promised to:

  • Work with courts and other stakeholders to design and operate three foreclosure mediation programs in three judicial circuits in northern Illinois
  • Develop and conduct training for mediators in our programs and those operated by our partner organizations farther downstate
  • Develop an online system to collect data about the programs enabling us to produce regular statistical reports and two comprehensive evaluations

I am happy to report that we delivered!

In the process, we confirmed some maxims about how to do quality court ADR and added a few corollaries.

  1. Study first

Before we start working with a court on their ADR program, we update our knowledge of the particular area in which we will be working. In this situation we researched what was happening across the country with foreclosure and how courts were using alternative approaches.

Corollary: Sometimes you have to build the plane while flying it. In the midst of a national foreclosure crisis, courts across the country were scrambling to keep up. While it was helpful to see what others were doing, we needed to figure out how to do foreclosure mediation in a way that worked in Illinois courts with their particular needs and resources.

  1. Work with stakeholders

We know that it is critical to bring together all the stakeholders while developing a court ADR system so that their various needs can be considered. In foreclosure mediation, the usual stakeholders – judges, court administrators, mediators and lawyers for both lenders and borrowers – were joined by a new addition: housing counselors, who were critical to the success of many of the programs.

Corollary: As important as it is to have all the voices heard, in the end, judges often have to make decisions about exactly how court ADR programs will work, and these decisions may not satisfy everyone. Fortunately, RSI doesn’t “have a dog in the fight,” so we can offer unbiased, expert advice about pros and cons of various approaches.

  1. Value the people who do the work

Never underestimate the importance of visible, capable staff. These programs are being continued because of dedicated program coordinators, who kept the cases moving and kept the courts informed of program progress, and because of skilled mediators who worked with intelligence and compassion in the midst of foreclosure – which is a crisis for each homeowner, even once the nation’s crisis has abated.

Corollary: These programs are not easy to administer. Juggling spinning plates is an apt metaphor for the challenge of administering programs with sometimes complex court rules that apply to everyone from sophisticated lawyers to overwhelmed homeowners.

  1. Collect and use reliable data

Turning data into meaningful information means different things to different stakeholders at different times. In the foreclosure mediation programs, we produced everything from monthly statistical reports for judges about numbers of cases in their programs and how they were being resolved to a mega-evaluation of all the programs that compared strengths of the various approaches and made recommendations about how each might improve.

Corollary: In a situation like this one in which every program was different, finding ways to make “apples to apples” comparisons was critical. Doing that successfully allowed RSI to make recommendations for improvement from a place of knowledge, not opinion.

Success and a New Era

September 1st will mark the beginning of a new era, as all three of our foreclosure mediation programs continue to operate thanks to the support of their local courts! We take this as the surest sign of success, that the courts value these programs enough to find a way to continue them when outside funding ends. We are grateful to the Attorney General for supporting these programs, to courts for their partnership and to the skilled mediators for conducting the mediations. We are pleased to continue to provide services to homeowners and their lenders when foreclosure looms.

Foreclosure Mediation Saves 1,000 Homes in Illinois

Eric Slepak-Cherney, June 1st, 2018

In compiling the latest statistical report for the eight foreclosure mediation programs funded by the Illinois Attorney General, RSI discovered that, as of last year, the programs helped over 1,000 Illinois homeowners stay in their homes. That’s a tremendous accomplishment and much is owed to the talented program staff that administer these programs, the neutrals who mediate these cases, the housing counselors and legal aid attorneys who advise the homeowners, and the Office of the Attorney General whose belief in the power of mediation made this all possible.

About a quarter of the cases, and 5% of the total foreclosure filings, end in retention. While that might not sound like much, it’s worth bearing in mind that in many instances, there is a significant power imbalance between the homeowner and their lender. That fact makes it quite possible that without the guidance provided by the housing counselors and attorneys, and the channels of dialogue between borrower and lender opened by the program staff and mediators, these homeowners would have very little chance of prevailing in the traditional judicial foreclosure process. Therefore, a retention rate of that magnitude is a tremendous victory. (more…)

Getting the Story Right with Data to Make the Right Decisions

Jennifer Shack, October 20th, 2016

I’m a data geek. I love poring over data and running analyses to see what story unfolds. On the national level, data can tell us the story of our rise as an industrial power and how that changed how people lived and worked. On a local level, it can tell the story of how the closing of a factory affects the fabric of a community and the institutions that bind it. For foreclosure mediation programs, the data can tell the story of how homeowners are affected by changes to the program. Thus, I was eager to find out how changes to the court rules in the 19th Judicial Circuit of Illinois at the beginning of this year would play out. What story would the data tell? (more…)

Charting Familiar Territory: Illinois Foreclosure Mediation Programs

Mary Rose Richter, August 7th, 2015

Since I began my internship at RSI, I have embraced the organization’s mission of enhancing court ADR systems through program development, research and access to resources. I have worked on a variety of projects regarding different aspects of the RSI mission and have learned that in order to create new resources, a great deal of time and effort must be put into careful analysis and in-depth research of reliable information.

Over the last month, I focused my time and effort into creating a new resource: a full chart of the Illinois foreclosure mediation programs. Foreclosure mediation, which helps homeowners effectively communicate with lenders about their homes, is one specific area of court ADR in which RSI is deeply involved. RSI has been providing research and resources on foreclosure mediation programs since the housing crisis started and has successfully developed and now administers three foreclosure mediation programs in northern Illinois.

Currently, Illinois has a total of eleven foreclosure mediation programs throughout the state (below, you will find individual charts, or “snapshots”, for each of these programs). (more…)

What “Mandatory” Really Means in Foreclosure Mediation

Susan M. Yates, July 13th, 2015

There is a lot to be learned by reading RSI’s evaluation of the foreclosure mediation programs that are supported by a grant from the Office of the Illinois Attorney General. The evaluation, which was conducted and written by RSI’s amazing Director of Research, Jen Shack, is comprehensive, well-reasoned and insightful.

One thing that struck me is how the various programs use the term “mandatory” to describe mediation services. When I think of mandatory participation in mediation, I think of the typical family mediation program for contested child-related issues in which parents must attempt mediation (barring certain disqualifying factors) or the court will not move forward with their case. In foreclosure mediation, some programs call themselves mandatory, but court rules impose no negative consequences if the homeowners do not try mediation. (more…)