As part of a groundbreaking research study about the effectiveness of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), the Center for Dispute Resolution (C-DRUM) recently authored “ADR Landscape: An Overview of ADR in the Maryland Court System”.
Based on extensive research and interviews conducted by Toby Guerin, managing director of C-DRUM, the report provides a comprehensive description of all 70+ court-affiliated ADR programs in Maryland. The Landscape describes the complexities and nuances of individual programs as well as broad themes.
The information is designed to educate the Maryland Judiciary and ADR practitioners on the current role of ADR in Maryland’s courts and lay the foundation for continued informed innovation.
While some states have eliminated or reduced funding for ADR programs, the Maryland Judiciary remains a national leader in promoting a variety of conflict resolution processes for the past 16 years.
In 1998, now-retired Chief Judge Robert M. Bell created and chaired the Maryland ADR Commission and then established the Maryland Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office (MACRO), led by Maryland Carey Law Alumna Rachel Wohl ’88.
In 2010, the Maryland Administrative Office of the Courts received support from the State Justice Institute to research court-affiliated ADR programs and practices across the state. The project includes three distinct components:
The study brings together a partnership of researchers, including C-DRUM, the Bosserman Center for Conflict Resolution at Salisbury University, Community Mediation Maryland, the University of Maryland Institute for Governmental Science and Research, and the Court Operations Department of the Maryland Judiciary. The research team worked with court staff, consumers, practitioners, and attorneys to obtain vital information regarding ADR use, practices, and perceptions.
According to the ADR Landscape, ADR exists in all of Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City. All locations offer mediation for child access cases and 18 counties also offer mediation for marital property cases. In the early 1990’s general civil circuit court mediation began in Baltimore City and has since expanded to 13 additional counties. Only two of the state’s Orphans’ Courts provide mediation options for probate matters.
For matters involving juvenile offenders, 10 jurisdictions offer ADR for specific charges. The most common process available for juvenile matters is community conferencing. In addition to community conferencing, the practices of collaborative law and parent coordination represent two emerging ADR practices for family law matters in Maryland.
Maryland’s lowest level trial court, the District Court of Maryland, offers civil ADR in 15 counties through the court’s ADR Office. In 11 of the 15 locations, litigants may engage in pre-trial mediation in addition to day of trial ADR services. Through partnerships with the county State’s Attorney’s Offices, 12 counties offer ADR for certain misdemeanor crimes.
The court-affiliated ADR programs provide a representation of the diverse policies and practices within the ADR field. No two programs are exactly the same; each program has adopted a slightly different model.
TRENDS AND THEMES
In addition to program-specific details, the report highlights several trends and themes among the diverse programs, specifically the variety of program evaluation and quality control practices including neutral qualifications, continuing education requirements, ADR practitioner removal policies, and participant and practitioner evaluation tools.
The document details the availability of free and reduced-fee ADR services by program and program funding sources. The forthcoming cost-benefit and efficiency and effectiveness research should provide insight into the impacts of the various models.
“We have a wide variety of strong ADR programs in Maryland,” says to the Honorable Thomas G. Ross, chair of the ADR Committee of the Conference of Circuit Court Judges.
“It is readily apparent that ADR benefits both the court and the participants, but we don’t have any hard evidence on which to base decisions about what types of strategies work best with various case types. With the findings from this major research endeavor, we will be able to tailor efforts to being the most effective techniques to the ADR process, as well as quantify how courts benefit in terms of cost-savings and efficiencies,”
As the research continues, C-DRUM’s Managing Director Toby Guerin, Associate Professor Deborah Eisenberg, and Law Professor Emeritus Roger Wolf, remain involved as members of the ADR Research Advisory Committee. Within the next two years several reports are scheduled for release. For updates on the research and access to all reports, please visit www.marylandadrresearch.org.