Alternative Dispute Resolution in Civil Justice Systems

Alternative Dispute Resolution in Civil Justice Systems

Alternative Dispute Resolution in Civil Justice Systems

Alternative Dispute Resolution in Civil Justice Systems

Synopsis

Hartley examines the introduction of alternative dispute resolution (e.g., mediation) in a court system in Georgia. Attorneys supported the introduction of mediation to consolidate control of the legal process and to add it to their practices. They also used mediation to settle some cases more quickly. Mediation gave judges flexibility to weed out minor cases and process others more quickly. However, these changes were not so great as to put a dent in settlement or trial rates, and Hartley concludes that while changes in court procedures have effects, researchers need to examine the behavior of actors in depth in order to discover these effects.

Excerpt

A controversial policy debate has emerged in the United States surrounding the issue of civil litigation. Civil courts are viewed by some as severely crowded, especially with personal injury suits. the perception of this crisis in the civil justice system has been supplemented by arguments that juries have encouraged the influx of cases by awarding huge damages to plaintiffs. While some recent studies dispute claims of a civil litigation crisis (see Galanter, 1983; Eisenberg and Henderson, 1992; and Eaton and Talarico, 1996), the debate itself has led to widespread efforts to reform the tort system in particular (e.g., caps on damages) and state civil justice systems in general (e.g., efforts at alternative dispute methods).

These reform efforts have long generated interest among legal scholars and more recently have drawn the attention of social scientists. in political science, “public law” scholars have called for more research on trial courts generally and civil courts particularly (see Shapiro, 1993; Jacob, 1991). Until recently, the study of civil law has generated little interest, in part, because of its “private” law status (Dunn et. al., 1995). However, with the declining viability of the public/private distinction and with the political debate surrounding court reforms, new questions have attracted the attention of law and judicial process scholars. of these, the effect of institutional changes on existing court systems and processes raises interesting questions. in this study, attention is directed to civil courts and one popular institutional change, namely, alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Among the reforms enacted to relieve state civil justice systems is court-connected (or annexed) alternative dispute resolution (ADR). These programs are designed to encourage or mandate mediation and/or arbitration of cases before they reach trial. To date, government-

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