Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
Almost every court system in the nation has an ADR program, and for most courts, at least some classes of litigants are compelled to use it before or during formal litigation.
The most common forms of ADR are:
- Mediation: sessions in which the parties and/or their lawyers meet with a neutral (the “mediator”) who attempts to find common ground. Mediation format can be caucus or non-caucus, depending on whether (or not) the mediator meets each party outside of the presence of the other. Mediation can be evaluative or facilitative, depending on whether (or not) the mediator provides her views as to the merit of the dispute.
- Judicial settlement conference: similar to mediations in the goal and the format, but the neutral is a judge or other decision-maker. Judicial settlement conferences are evaluative.
The present study is the first of any kind to evaluate rigorously all of the dimensions ADR proponents cite in advocating such programs. We conducted a randomized control trial in one setting: civil rights cases brought by inmates in one federal correctional facility in Nevada.
After a thorough screening and intake process, consenting individuals were randomized into one of two groups:
- Treated group: mediation
- Control group: strong suggestion to negotiate
Randomization has closed, and more than half of the cases have reached final resolution. Data we will analyze:
- Federal court case records
- Number of hours spent by state attorneys general per case
- Case outcomes, in both settlements and court orders
- Inmate plaintiff surveys
- Future complaints
The Research Team
Jim Greiner, Faculty Director, Access to Justice Lab; Professor of Law, Harvard Law School