MAY 2015
 

COURT ADR NEWS

Mediation between RadioShack, State Attorneys General, Over Sale of Customer Data

RadioShack declared bankruptcy in early February of this year. As part of the sale of its assets, RadioShack intends to sell off its intellectual property. This property includes personally identifiable data on as many as 67 million customers. Several state attorneys general have expressed concern about the sale of consumer data. They want to know more about the information the data contains, for the buyer to be properly vetted and to examine the contractual obligation to privacy that Radio Shack extended to its customers who voluntarily provided personal information. A mediation between the company and the state attorneys general will begin May 14 and will include a consumer privacy ombudsman.  

Indiana’s Statewide “Family Court Project” Distributes $243,000 in Grants for 2015 

The Family Court Project, a joint effort between the Indiana General Assembly and the state Supreme Court, recently granted nearly a quarter of a million dollars to be shared among nineteen Indiana county family courts in 2015. The Family Court Project began in 1999 and supports court efforts to develop programs and processes that are tailored to each court's needs. The 2015 grants were awarded to proposals that emphasized four programming areas, including ADR Early Case Management to promote the timely resolution of cases. Last year, 50% of the 23 programs receiving grants involved mediation. In an email, Sarah Kidwell at the Indiana Supreme Court reported that of the 19 counties receiving grants in 2015, 11 identified ADR related services in their Family Court Project grant application. These include several programs working with pro se or low income families, topics including paternity and child support, and processes including mediation assessments and speed mediation of child support. 

Indiana Court’s Family Mediation Program Has Grown and Evolved Over Past Decade

The Johnson County Circuit Court in Indiana has had a family mediation program since 2006. In that time, the program has doubled its number of cases to nearly 700 each year. Initially, the program required only three attorneys to mediate its caseload; now it needs as many as 14. The program, which charges fees on a sliding scale, mainly deals with divorces, paternity cases and parenting coordination. Program director Dustin Matern reports that with the additional mediators and more space, the program is able to resolve cases more quickly. He also noted that more middle-income parties are using mediation even though they must pay the full fees for the process. 
 

THIS MONTH AT RSI

17th Circuit Foreclosure Mediation Program Connects with Homeowners at the Courthouse

By Shawn Davis, Director of Foreclosure Mediation and Kimberly Ackmann, 17th Circuit Foreclosure Mediation Program Coordinator 

The program coordinator for the 17th Circuit's Foreclosure Mediation Program, RSI's Kimberly Ackmann, recently started meeting potential parties at the Winnebago County Courthouse in Rockford. Kim goes over to the courthouse during the foreclosure court call so that she can work directly with homeowners interested in participating in foreclosure mediation. With Kim waiting right outside the courtroom, the presiding judge can refer homeowners into the mediation program and send them directly to Kim for more information. Kim is also available to answer more general questions that homeowners or attorneys may have about the program and other area resources. RSI has found that the more we can conduct outreach and make it easier for homeowners to get information and access program services, the better the chances that homeowners will enter and participate in the program. Having Kim available at the courthouse provides a forum for homeowners to ask questions and understand their options for moving forward. For our program, it's another chance to serve homeowners and build rapport while getting the word out about our services.
 

RESEARCH

Surveys Address Parenting Coordination, Cooperative Practice

by Jennifer Shack, Director of Research 

This month, we’re republishing some interesting research that RSI Research Director Jennifer Shack first discussed in October, 2008. We hope you enjoy this look back.

Parenting coordination and cooperative practice are two relatively recent additions to the ADR landscape that have been little researched. Each has been the subject of newly published surveys of practitioners.
 
The results of the survey of parenting coordinators (PCs) was published in the latest edition of Family Court Review. In "Parenting Coordination (PC) Practice: A Survey of Experienced Professionals" by Kyle Kirkland and Matthew Sullivan, 54 of 100 PCs responded to a questionnaire about their practice. The PCs were either members of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts or attended the AFCC conference in 2006. They represented a variety of professional backgrounds, including psychologists, social workers, licensed professional counselors and attorneys. Six were bachelor’s level professionals.
 
The survey found that almost all respondents do PC work only through a court order. Further, almost all had the parents sign a specific PC agreement outlining the role and authority of the PC, among other items. PCs do not as a rule use psychological assessments, seeing their role as implementing a parenting agreement, not evaluating the parents. The PCs note that there are some couples for which PC is not appropriate. These generally are those who have a cycle of violence and conflict and do not have an interest in improving their parenting relationship. Perhaps because the practice is still young, Kirkland and Sullivan hypothesize, only six respondents had formal complaints filed against them. The authors end by recommending research on the effectiveness of PC.
 
In a similar survey, members of the Divorce Cooperation Institute (DCI) in Wisconsin responded to questions either in semi-structured interviews or in on-line questionnaires. Three members of the Collaborative Family Law Conference of Wisconsin (CFLCW) were also interviewed. In “Practical Insights from an Empirical Study of Cooperative Lawyers in Wisconsin,” published in the 2008 edition of the Journal of Dispute Resolution, John Lande outlines the results of the survey and offers recommendations to policy leaders for improving the practice.
 
The survey covered a wide range of topics, including the appropriateness of Cooperative Practice for particular cases, the use of written participation agreements, the duty to disclose information, and differences between litigation, Collaborative Practice, and Cooperative Practice. (Definitions of Collaborative Law and Cooperative Practice are available here.)
 
One of the main points taken from the survey was that written participation agreements were seldom used. Although respondents liked the flexibility of Cooperative Practice, they felt the use of participation agreements would clarify the goals, expectations, and consequences for both parties and attorneys. Lande suggests the use of common standard phrasing as well to help to keep the practice and expectations more consistent across practitioners and cases.
 
Further clarification also is needed on the duty to disclose information to the other party, says Lande. In response to a series of questions, respondents showed little consensus as to whether there was a duty to disclose in all but one scenario presented. Lande suggests those working in Cooperative Practice "develop at least some general norms about expectations of disclosure of information" to create a consensus. 
 
Lande also has feedback and recommendations for policy makers in the area of Collaborative Law. Some Cooperative practitioners found fault in Collaborative Law in that the disqualification agreement causes undue pressure to settle, while also leading to the lawyers "abandoning" their clients if agreement is not reached. Collaborative Law was also seen as being too formalized and too cumbersome. As the National Conference of Commissioners of Uniform State Laws (now named the "Uniform Law Commission") works to draft a Uniform Collaborative Law Act, it should consider "including special provisions regarding parties' informed consent considering the foreseeable risks of the disqualification agreement."

Get a State-by-State Perspective on Court ADR
Get an overview of court ADR in every state in Court ADR Across the US. This section of CourtADR.org includes statutes, court rules, and a summary of ADR activities in each state.

RSI Board Of Directors

Hon. Morton Denlow (ret.), President
Terry Moritz, Vice President
Prof. James J. Alfini
Marc Becker
Rajive Chadha
Hon. Allen S. Goldberg (ret.)
Mitchell Marinello
Raven Moore
Hon. Stephen Pacey (ret.)
Hon. Judith Rice
Brian Roche
Hon. Karen G. Shields (ret.)
Hon. James Sullivan (ret.)

RSI Staff

Susan M. Yates, Executive Director 
Kimberly Ackmann
Bridget Crawford

Shawn Davis
Olga Kordonskaya
Kevin Malone
Mary Novak, Editor
Jennifer Shack

SUPPORT RSI


RSI is a non-profit organization that strengthens justice by enhancing court ADR systems through expertise in program development, research and resources. 

NEWS & UPDATES


Northwestern Student Volunteers for RSI

RSI is pleased to announce that another international LLM student from Northwestern Law is volunteering with us for many hours. Xi (Lexie) Wang is building on the research done by our previous LLM volunteers, focusing on the legal and legislative infrastructure surrounding student loan debt. 

FROM OUR BLOG


RSI Turns 20!

Susan M. Yates proudly announces RSI’s 20th anniversary since our founding in 1995.

Domestic Violence Finding Overrides Agreement to Mediate, NJ Court Says

Mary Novak explores a New Jersey appellate case in which a finding of domestic violence trumped a prior order for a divorced couple to mediate their support agreement.

Canada’s First Online Tribunal Getting Ready to Launch

Shawn Davis discusses Canada’s first online tribunal, expected to launch later this year.

HOW CAN WE HELP?


How Can We Help You? RSI offers a clearinghouse of information on CourtADR.org and also responds to requests for information. Do you have a question about court ADR?
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RSI thanks JAMS and the JAMS Foundation for their support of this publication.

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