Five years after the Maryland Judiciary embarked on a groundbreaking study about the impact of alterative dispute resolution (ADR) in the courts, Maryland Carey Law's Center for Dispute Resolution (C-DRUM) hosted a symposium of judges, local and national dispute resolution experts, and ADR program administrators to explore the results of the studies.
“The impact of ADR matters,” said the Honorable Zuberi Williams, associate judge, District Court of Maryland and chairperson of the District Court ADR Subcommittee, “when we get this research it opens minds and helps make sure judges are informed.”
Funded by the Maryland Judiciary, the ADR Research Symposium on June 2-3, 2016, highlighted the results of the eight discrete research studies and examined the implications of the research for court-connected dispute resolution programs and the ADR field generally.
The research pushed beyond traditional ADR studies which rely largely on self-reporting by mediators and information such as settlement rates and participant evaluations. Instead, the Maryland study used rigorous research methodology, including behavioral observation of actual mediations, control groups, and other empirical data gathering and analysis to provide rich information into areas previously unstudied in the field. The outcome is a vast and informative amount of data to help mediators, court administrators, and judges think critically about the benefits of ADR to the Judiciary and the public.
One study found that ADR had significant positive impacts for the parties, regardless of whether they settled in mediation. In particular, three to six months after the process, participants who went through ADR were more likely than those who went through the court process to report:
And, ADR participants were more likely to report the outcome was working and less likely to go back to court. In civil District Court matters, “cases that reach an agreement in ADR are half as likely (21%) to return to court for enforcement actions compared to cases that reached a verdict (46%).” In criminal District Court cases mediation decreased the predicted probably of judicial action by 24%, jury trial prayed by 11%, and supervised probation/jail by 7%.
“This research is important to all courts and to me in particular,” said the Honorable John Morrisey, chief judge of the District Court of Maryland, during his opening comments at the symposium. “Statistics and findings is what others believe and give the validation to keep in the direction we are going.”
The study also found that mediation improves the ability of parents to work out contested custody disputes. Specifically, participants were more likely to report a positive shift in their ability to work together, say that the other person listened and understands them better, and indicate that the underlying issues came out when the mediator used reflecting and eliciting strategies. The research also found that participants found the location of the mediation to be convenient were more likely to reach an agreement.
According to Professor Lisa Amsler of Indiana University, the research has impacts for mediation quality, procedural justice, and system design. “Validation of court connected programs gives us the ability to be bold in how people get to these processes and make sure what is happening is consistent with the research,” said Amsler.
Maryland boasts over 80 dispute resolution programs as detailed in the ADR Landscape, authored by C-DRUM’s Managing Director, Toby Treem Guerin ‘02.
“We are at the forefront now in the nation,” said the Honorable Thomas Ross, administrative judge, Second Judicial Circuit and chairperson of the Judicial Council ADR Committee. “I am very appreciative of the work that was done. The ADR Landscape in Maryland is booming and there is a lot more room to go.”
The symposium served as springboard for discussions on the research. The research continues as courts and practitioners begin to integrate the findings into program design, best practices, and training of mediators. As Lou Gieszl, assistant administrator for programs at the Administrative Office of the Courts stated, “It is no longer about justifying ADR but saying how can we do it that much better.” Current and future reports are accessible on the Maryland Judiciary’s website.