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The Effectiveness of Court-Connected Dispute Resolution in Civil Cases
Roselle Wissler
22 Conflict Resol. Q. 55 (2004)
Open Access  |  Library Access


This article reviews empirical studies of court-connected mediation and neutral evaluation in small claims cases, general jurisdiction trial cases, and appellate cases. For each case type, the studies' data sources and methodology are briefly outlined, and the dispute resolution process and structure of the programs are described. The empirical findings regarding program outcomes and how those outcomes compared to non-ADR program outcomes are presented. In addition, findings showing the impact of program structure on outcomes are reported. In general, the empirical research indicates that mediation and neutral evaluation settle cases and that participants view the process and outcome as fair. The findings are mixed, however, with regard to whether mediation and neutral evaluation outperform or simply do as well as traditional litigation on these dimensions, and on compliance, improving the parties’ relationship, and reducing the time and cost of resolution. Moreover, the pattern of findings differs depending on the type of court. Only a handful of studies have systematically assessed the impact of elements of program structure, and their findings are mixed. Our ability to draw clear conclusions about the relative effectiveness and efficiency of court-connected mediation, neutral evaluation, and traditional litigation is limited by the small number of studies with reliable comparative data.
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