march 2017


Supreme Court Pick Gorsuch Sticks to ADR Orthodoxy

While the nomination of 10th Circuit Court Judge Neil M. Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court is generating predictable commotion in these highly politicized times, his mediation and arbitration jurisprudence seem destined to endure far less scrutiny. As Russ Bleemer’s excellent analysis in the International Institute for Conflict Prevention & Resolution (CPR)’s Alternatives newsletter points out, Judge Gorsuch has had a number of decisions in ADR-related cases that follow a well-established school of analysis that affords deference to the Federal Arbitration Act while also focusing on the underlying contract in the case. Perhaps most notably, in Hand v. Walnut Valley Sailing Club, Gorsuch wrote a unanimous opinion supporting mediation confidentiality, an issue that rarely makes it to federal appellate courts.

Joint Technology Commission Releases Bulletin on ODR

The Joint Technology Commission, a collaborative effort between the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA), the National Association for Court Management (NACM) and the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), recently published a bulletin highlighting the present state of online dispute resolution (ODR) in courts, along with opportunities and challenges. The document notes that ODR is in a nascent stage nationwide, with pilot programs going on in several states including Michigan, Ohio, Utah and New York. Based on preliminary findings, courts are finding ODR to have versatile applications across numerous types of disputes, and have the potential to expand access to court services, improve judicial efficiency and offer greater participant satisfaction.


Motivational Interviewing in Family Mediation

by Jennifer Shack, Director of Research

In January, I told you about research in Australia that examined the use of motivational interviewing (MI) in mediation. It turns out that researchers at the University of Nebraska are also looking into combining mediation with MI. Their research, however, is on how to best train mediators to employ MI in family mediations. In a recent article in The Nebraska Lawyer (January/February 2017), they provide a primer on MI and how it can be used in mediation, then discuss the outcomes of their training research.

The researchers – Kristen M. Blankley, Lisa PytlikZillig and Kate Speck – are following eight mediators through the training process and into their practice post-training. The mediators completed self-efficacy surveys before starting training. They then participated in a follow-up discussion. The researchers are not just looking at change in skills and knowledge during training, but are gathering data on the mediators’ ability to use MI in their own mediation practice. Thus, after each mediation the mediators are also filling out reflection worksheets that are based on an assessment developed to improve MI proficiency. The research will also include two more follow-up discussions and another self-efficacy survey.
Through their research, Blankley, et al, have concluded that the most important things in MI training for mediators were:
  • Clarifying what the new strategies are. MI and mediation share a lot of skills and terminology, but there are important differences. The mediators initially didn’t understand what those differences were and thus were unableto change their practice.
  • Attention and awareness to terminology. MI and mediation can use different terms for the same concepts. This can be confusing. Either explain the differences or change the terminology to fit mediation.
  • Demonstration of MI skills. The mediators benefitted greatly from a fishbowl in which an expert in MI demonstrated change talk and the mediators could discuss options for mediator responses.
  • Addressing concerns about bias. This was a major concern of the mediators. They felt uncomfortable exploring change with one party while the other looked on. The mediators discussed strategies for managing bias, including the use of caucus.
What is apparent from this article is that the research is not only providing a template for future training, but it is also identifying strategies for incorporating MI into mediation. The article is only six pages and worth a read.


2016 Foreclosure Mediation Report Reveals       Continued Need

by Eric Slepak, Director of ADR Programs
Our latest statistical report for Illinois’ foreclosure mediation programs captures the data RSI collected on the participation, outcomes and attitudes of parties participating in the state’s eight foreclosure mediation programs during 2016.  While we are currently working on a much more exhaustive evaluation of these programs, along the lines of 2015’s Six Programs, Six Models, this report provides several interesting insights worth sharing.

It’s helpful first to consider the national landscape of foreclosures. On a national level, the picture is actually quite rosy, given that this past month the number of foreclosure actions reached their lowest point since November 2005. However, the overall trend of decreased activity is at odds with many states who saw a rise in actions during 2016, including Illinois, which saw an 11% increase over 2015 foreclosures. Further struggles in the housing market exist at a local level, with certain counties and regions experiencing particular depression. And with HAMP sunsetting at the end of last year, there is a new factor of uncertainty that hasn’t been present since the peak of the foreclosure crisis. All of this is to say, that while we may be excited about trends indicating recovery and stability, much of that information will be of little comfort to the 800,000+ homeowners nationwide (as of last month) who are still facing the foreclosure process.

Perhaps nowhere did we get a better sense of the ongoing need for foreclosure mediation than in Lake County, IL. Historically, RSI’s program there, administered in conjunction with the 19th Judicial Circuit Court of Illinois, struggled to enroll homeowners in the program and had less than a 10% participation rate. This past year, the court implemented a rule change, which made entry into the program easier by allowing homeowners to complete the initial intake screening session telephonically rather than in-person. This one change had a tremendous impact: the participation rate for 2016 was 17%! Year over year, the program went from 193 participants in 2015 to 234 this past year. We also saw a similarly impressive increase in participation in the 20th Circuit Program, serving St. Clair County, which is located on the opposite side of the state from Lake County and has considerably different demographics. These data points support the proposition that there is still need for and value in these programs.
In 2016, Illinois’ eight Attorney General-funded foreclosure mediation programs served 1,080 homeowners, resulting in 280 home retentions. To date, these programs have served over 3,000 homeowners and have resulted in over 730 home retentions or loan modification agreements. Where data is available, programs boasted satisfaction rates of 85% or higher. To read the full report, click here.

RSI Board Of Directors

Terry Moritz, President
Prof. James J. Alfini
Marc Becker
Hon. Morton Denlow (ret.)
J. Timothy Eaton
Bradley Fewell
Alan King
Mitchell Marinello
Raven Moore
Hon. Stephen Pacey (ret.)
Brian Roche
Hon. James Sullivan (ret.)

RSI Staff

Susan M. Yates, Exec. Director
Britt Bartholomew
Bridget Crawford
Sarah Flores
Mariah Heinz
Olga Kordonskaya
Kevin Malone
Jennifer Shack
Eric Slepak
Nicole Wilmet, Editor


Welcome Alan King to the Board of Directors!

RSI is proud to introduce Alan King, of Drinker Biddle & Reath, LLP, onto our Board of Directors. Mr. King serves as Vice Chair of Drinker Biddle’s national Labor and Employment Group. In his nearly 30 years of practice, Mr. King has been a proponent and frequent user of alternative dispute resolution procedures, and he has completed the Certificate Program in Mediation Skills Training at Northwestern University’s School of Professional Studies. A native of Chicago, Mr. King also serves on the board for a number of other non-profit organizations focused on education and youth engagement including; The Children First Fund, The Chicago Public Schools Foundation, and the Ounce of Prevention Fund. RSI is proud to have Mr. King join our Board, and hope you will join us in welcoming him to our organization!

Welcome Nicole Wilmet!

RSI is delighted to welcome Nicole Wilmet to our staff as the new Resource Center Director. She is a recent graduate from Chicago-Kent Law School and also holds a B.A. in English Literature and Communications from DePauw University. In this role, Ms. Wilmet will be researching, writing, and publishing information on and RSI's blog, Just Court ADR. Ms. Wilmet will also be taking over as editor of the Court ADR Connection. RSI is excited to have Ms. Wilmet join us! Please join us in congratulating her on her new position!

Welcome Sarah Flores!

RSI is also pleased to welcome Sarah Flores to our staff as the new 17th Judicial Circuit Foreclosure Mediation Program Coordinator. In this role Ms. Flores will administer the 17th Judicial Circuit Foreclosure Mediation Program, which includes both Winnebago and Boone counties. Ms. Flores received her B.S. in Elementary Education from Southern Illinois University. We are excited to have Ms. Flores join us! Please join us in congratulating her on her new position!


In her latest Just Court ADR blog post, RSI's Executive Director Susan Yates hones in on the need to utilize mediation as a help instead of as a hurdle. 

Reflecting on Focus Groups in Washington, DC
In this post, Executive Director Susan Yates reflects on her experience in Washington, DC, where she led focus groups to assist Jennifer Shack, RSI's Director of Research, as a part of Jen's evaluation of the DC Court's child protection mediation program.  

Takeaways from a Child Protection Mediation Training
Check out Eric Slepak's, RSI's Director of ADR Systems, reflections on the advanced two-day mediation training that RSI hosted for the mediators of RSI's new Child Protection Mediation Program in Geneva, Illinois.


If you enjoy reading about the monitoring and evaluation efforts in our foreclosure mediation programs, or our monthly research update,   please consider making a donation below to support this and the other work RSI is doing to strengthen justice through   court ADR.


How Can We Help You? RSI offers a clearinghouse of information on and also responds to requests for information. Do you have a question about court ADR?
 RSI Site

RSI thanks JAMS and the JAMS Foundation for their support of this publication.

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