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Court ADR Research Library

Court ADR Effectiveness

Evaluations of court ADR programs can provide valuable information about the benefits of such programs, as well as the effectiveness of ADR for particular cases and issues. Listed here are evaluations that were particularly well done. To be selected, the evaluations had to have been well-structured (such as having valid comparisons between cases that went through ADR and those that did not), appropriate analysis of the data (including proper use of statistics), and good discussion of the findings.

Also included in the list are meta-analyses that look at the findings of multiple evaluations and draw conclusions from them, and bibliographies of evaluations. Those who are interested in the overall picture regarding the effectiveness of court ADR should start with those.

Online resources

In-print resources

Selected Resources turn annotation on

  • Court-Ordered Arbitration in North Carolina: An Evaluation of Its Effects
    Clarke, Stevens H.; Donnelly, Laura F.; Grove, Sara. 1989

    Abstract: This is a comprehensive study of one of the first court-ordered arbitration programs in the country (instituted in 1987). The program operated in three diverse judicial districts (urban, semi-urban and rural) and addressed civil cases involving a damage claim of $15,000 or less. The study found that litigants' satisfaction with outcomes and procedures improved; attorneys were satisfied with program; eligible civil cases were disposed of more quickly than with standard procedures; and the number of civil trials decreased.

  • Just, Speedy, and Inexpensive? An Evaluation of Judicial Case Management Under the Civil Justice Reform Act
    Kakalik, James S.. Judicature, 80(4):184-189, January-February, 1997

    Abstract: This article is a summary of the 4-book research series done by the RAND Institute for Civil Justice (ICJ) on the Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA). The CJRA required each federal court district to develop a plan for civil case management to reduce costs and delay, and 10 districts were chosen as "pilot" programs for evaluation. The case management principles fall into 4 categories: differential case management; early active judicial management; judicial management of discovery; and referral of appropriate cases to non-binding ADR. The study found that the CJRA pilot program had little effect on delays and costs of litigation and that ADR had no major effect on litigation cost or delay, though participants liked the ADR programs and cases referred to ADR were more likely to have a monetary outcome.

  • Trapping the Data: An Assessment of Domestic Relations Mediation in Maine and Ohio Courts
    Wissler, Roselle L.. May 1999

    Abstract: This report looks at domestic relations mediation in thirteen courts in Maine and six courts in Ohio. The data was gathered from participant questionnaires submitted for 789 cases mediated in Maine between February 1996 and March 1997 and from 154 cases mediated in Ohio between February 1997 and March 1998. The data gathered included type of case, mediator demographics, mediation session length and attendance, mediation outcomes, and participant assessment of the process. The study found that very little impacted settlement to any extent, but that participant assessments were affected by case and party characteristics, as well as mediator characteristics.

  • Court-Ordered Civil Case Mediation in North Carolina: An Evaluation of its Effects
    Clarke, Stevens H.; Ellen, Elizabeth D.; McCormick, Kelly. 1995

    Abstract: This is a comprehensive study of a court-ordered mediation pilot program. The program operates in 13 counties, four of which were analyzed intensively for this study. The study looked at participation rates, settlement rates, satisfaction and cost savings to litigants. It found that the program achieved its goals of greater efficiency and satisfaction to some extent, but not as much as its proponents may have hoped. It recommends that the court system consider making participation in mediation happen more often and more quickly.

  • Voluntary Arbitration in Eight Federal District Courts: An Evaluation
    Rauma, David; Krafka, Carol. 1994

    Abstract: Updates the information found in the 1990 publication "Court-Annexed Arbitration in Ten District Courts." Describes the main elements of the eight existing voluntary arbitration programs: policies on case eligibility for arbitration; opt-in and opt-out referral systems; qualifications of and selection of arbitrators; and arbitration proceedings. Summarizes data on levels of participation. Among findings are: 3 of the 4 opt-out voluntary arbitration programs had rates of participation comparable to those of the mandatory arbitration programs; trial de novo demand rates in the two voluntary arbitration programs with the largest number of hearings were comparable to those of the mandatory arbitration programs.

  • Child Custody and Visitation Program in North Carolina: An Evaluation of Its Implementation and Effects
    Donnelly, Laura F.; Ebron, Rebecca G.. Jan. 2000

    Abstract: This evaluation features an explanation of the program, information about the research project, details of case complexity, case flow, disposition time and manner of disposition, content of custody orders, as well as the results of a parent survey, a mediation exit survey and an attorney survey.

  • MetroCourt Project Final Report: A Study of the Effects of Ethnicity and Gender in Mediated and Adjudicated Small Claim Cases
    Hermann, Michele; LaFree, Gary; Rack, Christine; West, Mary Beth. January 1993

    Abstract: This report is a result of a study that examined how women and minorities fared in mediated and adjudicated small claims civil cases in Bernalillo County, NM. It evaluated results in mediation and adjudication using two measures: 1) the objective formula for outcome developed by Vidmar, and 2) subjective measures of satisfaction. The study found that minority claimants consistently received less money than non-minorities, while minority respondents consistently paid more. These results were more extreme in mediated cases than in adjudicated cases. Gender did not have an effect on monetary outcomes, except that female respondents paid less in mediated than in adjudicated cases. Minority claimants were more likely than non-minority claimants to express satisfaction with the mediation process. Minority women were the most satisfied with the process, despite the fact that they were more likely to receive less as claimants and pay more as respondents.

  • Evaluating the Effects of a Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program on Reoffense
    Nugent, William R.; Paddock, Jeffrey B.. Research on Social Work Practice, 6(2):155-178, April 1996

    Abstract: This article discusses an evaluation of a victim-offender reconciliation program in Anderson County, Tennessee. The authors examined data gathered from existing court records and records from the program. A random sample of 100 cases were matched on type of crime and admission of guilt, with a second sample of 100 cases from before the activation of the program. The study found that the probability of re-offense is related to the number of previous offenses as well as number of siblings. The authors conclude that the victim-offender mediation model is a promising approach and that those who participate in these programs may subsequently engage in less frequent antisocial behavior.

  • Mediation and Adjudication in the Small Claims Court: The Effects of Process and Case Characteristics
    Wissler, Roselle L.. Law & Society Review, 29(2): 323-358, 1995

    Abstract: The study described in this article attempted to discover the reason for differences in effectiveness between small claims cases that were adjudicated and those that were mediated in four district courts in the Boston area. After comparing case characteristics, the author determined that the differences were based upon the processes themselves rather than the characteristics of the disputes and the disputants using each procedure.

  • The Effects of Mandatory Mediation: Empirical Research on the Experience of Small Claims and Common Pleas Courts
    Wissler, Roselle L.. Willamette Law Review, 33: 565-604, 1997

    Abstract: "This article reports research in two different court settings: small claims courts and common pleas courts. First, it examines the theoretical and empirical differences between mediation and adjudication, discusses the factors leading to the adoption of mandatory mediation programs and the concerns raised about them, and reviews prior research on mandatory mediation. Next, it reports the findings of two studies that compare mandatory and voluntary mediation in terms of case outcomes and parties' and attorneys' evaluations. These studies reveal few differences between mandatory and voluntary mediation and between the assessments of male versus female litigants and white versus nonwhite litigants in mandatory mediation" (p. 566).

  • Evaluation of the Ontario Mandatory Mediation Program (Rule 24.1): Final Report - The First 23 Months.
    Hann, Robert G.; Barr, Carl. March 12, 2001

    Abstract: This study evaluates the effects of mandatory civil case mediation as regulated by Rule 24.1 on disposition time, cost to parties, the quality of disposition outcomes, and the operation of the court. Through an examination of court records and the analysis of a questionnaire that was distributed to both mediation participants and a control group that did not participate in mediation, the study authors found that mandatory mediation has significantly reduced disposition time, decreased costs to litigants, improved settlement rates, and procured high satisfaction rates from both lawyers and parties.

  • An Evaluation of Child Protection Mediation in Five California Courts
    Thoennes, Nancy. Family and Conciliation Courts Review, 35(2): 184-195, April 1997

    Abstract: This article presents the results of an evaluation of child protection mediation in five California counties. These counties used a variety of different mediation approaches, yet achieved similar results. Data retrieved for the study included a combination of court records, mediation files, parent surveys, and interviews with attorneys, child protection workers and other involved professionals. Analysis of this data found that parents felt "heard" at mediations and preferred mediation to a court hearing, that some form of settlement was reached in 90% of all mediated cases, that mediated treatment plans were more likely to reference specific services to be provided to the child, that mediation was more likely to lead to the parent acknowledging the need to cooperate with the service plan, and that compliance was greater for mediated cases.

  • Client Evaluations of Mediation Services: The Impact of Case Characteristics and Mediation Service Models
    Depner, Charlene E.; Cannata, Karen; Ricci, Isolina. Family and Conciliation Courts Review, 32(3): 306-325, July 1994

    Abstract: This article discusses the findings from a study of custody and visitation mediation in the California courts. Fully 82% of all families seen in mediation during the study period are included in the study. Through survey information, the study examined the effect of a client's education, income level, and ethnicity on their perceptions and attitudes toward mediation, finding that mediation was significantly more likely to be rated as helpful by clients with less education and lower income and by ethnic minorities. The study also looked into what effect authorizing mediators to make evaluative recommendations to the court regarding custody and visitation if the mediation results in impasse. It found that there was a slight trend toward higher favorable ratings in those courts that did not authorize mediators to make recommendations. In addition, the study found that clients reacted more favorably to mediation if they reached agreement.

  • The Effects of Restorative Justice Programming: A Review of the Empirical
    Latimer, Jeff; Kleinknecht, Steven. January 2000

    Abstract: This report provides an overview of restorative justice and examines the research to date on its effects on the criminal justice system (such as cost-benefits and the possibility that they draw additional offenders in to the system), offender behavior in terms of recidivism and restitution completion, and victim and offender responses to restorative justice processes. In addition, the authors discuss what research needs to be done in the future in order to fill the gaps in our knowledge of the efficacy of restorative justice programs.

  • The Effectiveness of Restorative Justice Practices: A Meta-Analysis
    Latimer, Jeff; Dowden, Craig; Muise, Danielle. 2001

    Abstract: Meta-analysis pulls together statistics from many studies to come up with one number to represent them all. In this case, findings from studies comparing the efficacy of restorative justice programs to traditional court programs are examined. The analysis indicates that restorative justice programs have a significant positive impact on victim and offender satisfaction and on restitution compliance. There appears to be no real impact on the rate of recidivism.

  • The Impact of Victim-Offender Mediation: Two Decades of Research
    Umbreit, Mark S.; Coates, Robert B.; Vos, Betty. Federal Probation, pp. 29-35, December 2001

    Abstract: Based on the analysis of 38 studies of victim-offender mediation programs in the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, and New Zealand, this article discusses the benefits of victim-offender mediation. These include higher satisfaction for both victim and offender, lower cost to the court, possibly lower recidivism rates, and higher rates of restitution.

  • The Effects of Court-Ordered Mediation in Workers' Compensation Cases Filed in Circuit Court: Results from an Experiment Conducted in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City
    Mandell, Marvin B.; Marshall, Andrea. June 2002

    Abstract: This is a study of a pilot project to make mediation mandatory for workers' compensation cases. In the evaluation, cases were assigned either to a group for which mediation was mandatory, or to a group for which it was voluntary. The study found that the percentage of cases that was resolved prior to the discovery deadline (120 days after the case becomes "at issue") was 24.1% for the treatment group and 11.2% in the control group. Prior to the mandatory settlement conference (scheduled for one month prior to trial), 42.5% of the treatment cases were resolved and 28.5% of cases in the control group were resolved. 82.5% of treatment cases and 70.2% of cases in the control group were resolved prior to the scheduled trial date. Looking specifically at time to resolution, 13% of cases in the treatment were resolved within 3 months (the deadline for mediation), as compared to 9% of cases in the control group. Approximately 25% of cases in the treatment group were resolved within 4 months (the deadline for discovery), as opposed to 12% of control group cases. All other date-delimited percentages were the same. Thus, the main impact of mediation on time to disposition came within the first months of the life of the case.

  • Court-Connected Mediation in General Civil Cases: What We Know from Empirical Research
    Wissler, Roselle L. Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution, 17(3): 641-703, 2002

    Abstract: This article presents the findings from three empirical studies of nine courts in Ohio: two studies involved pilot mediation programs in five courts; one involved a "settlement week" mediation program in four courts. To conduct the studies, questionnaires were distributed to parties and attorneys at the end of the mediation session in all cases mediated during the study periods; questionnaires were completed before leaving the courthouse. The study also used case files and mediator logs to determine timing of referral, time to disposition, case activity, and mediation characteristics. Data for all courts was aggregated - for process, outcome, and participant perception. The mean response for all courts together was calculated. For relationships between variables (e.g. program characteristics and settlement), a meta-analysis was conducted.

    Taken in aggregate, 72% of parties to mediation in all programs perceived the process to be very fair. Fifty-five percent were satisfied with the mediation process. In aggregate, 89% of attorneys perceived the mediation process to be very fair. Of those parties who settled in mediation, 78% thought their settlement was very (56%) or somewhat (22%) fair. Ninety-seven percent of attorneys who settled their case through mediation thought the settlement was very (75%) or somewhat (22%) fair. There was no difference between mediated and non-mediated cases in the number of motions filed or decided.

    Early referral led to shorter time to disposition for both cases that settled and those that did not. Parties were more likely to believe time and money were saved if the case settled in mediation.

  • Bibliographic Summary of Cost, Pace, and Satisfaction Studies of Court-Related Mediation Programs, 2nd Ed.
    Shack, Jennifer E.. 2002, 2007

    Abstract: This is an annotated bibliography of evaluations of court-related mediation programs. It provides information on the methods and findings of more than 70 studies of civil, family, small claims, workers' compensation, appellate, victim-offender, and bankruptcy mediation programs. Most focus on time, cost, and satisfaction of the participants.

    The author is an RSI staff member.

  • Evaluation of the Early Mediation Pilot Programs
    Anderson, Heather; Pi, Ron. Feb. 27, 2004

    Abstract: This study evaluates five court-annexed civil mediation programs in California - three mandatory programs (Fresno, Los Angeles, and San Diego counties) and two voluntary programs (Contra Costa and Sonoma counties) - in five areas: trial rate, time to disposition, litigant satisfaction, litigant costs, and court workload. The major findings of the study were that 58% of unlimited cases and 71% of limited cases settled as a result of mediation; the trial rate was reduced 24 to 30 percent, resulting in substantial savings to both litigants and the court; the number of motions and/or pretrial court events was lower for program cases; there was some positive impact on the time from filing to disposition for mediated cases; and satisfaction of attorneys was higher in program cases than non-program cases.

  • Institutionalization: What Do Empirical Studies Tell Us About Court Mediation?
    McAdoo, Bobbi; Welsh, Nancy A.; Wissler, Roselle L.. Dispute Resolution Magazine, 9(2):8-10, Winter 2003

    Abstract: This article examines the findings of studies of court mediation to determine how program design affects the success of institutionalization of mediation, the ways design choices affect the likelihood of settlement, and the impact of design choice on litigants' perceptions of the procedural justice provided by court-connected mediation.

  • Efficiency: Mediation in Courts Can Bring Gains, But Under What Conditions?
    Shack, Jennifer E.. Dispute Resolution Magazine, 9(2): 11-13, Winter 2003

    Abstract: This article summarizes the findings of 62 studies of court-related mediation regarding cost, pace of litigation and satisfaction. It then discusses ways in which courts can improve the monitoring and evaluation of their mediation programs so that they can better determine whether the programs are achieving the goals set for them, as well as what characteristics lead to the most effective programs.

    The author is an RSI staff member.

  • The Effectiveness of Court-Connected Dispute Resolution in Civil Cases
    Wissler, Roselle L.. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 22(1-2): 55-88, Fall-Winter 2004

    Abstract: This article summarizes more than 40 studies of small claims, appellate, and general civil cases. The summaries include information on program structure, process, and outcomes of the programs studied. The author notes that on the whole, empirical research indicates that mediation and early neutral evaluation settle cases and that participants perceive the process and outcomes to be fair. On other factors, the findings are more ambiguous. Also unclear is the impact of program structure on outcomes.

  • Divorce Mediation: Research and Reflections
    Emery, Robert E.; Sbarra, David; Grover, Tara. Family Court Review, 43(1): 22-37, January 2005

    Abstract: This is a follow-up to the Charlottesville Mediation Project Study that looks at the long-term effect of random assignment to mediation on family relationships, psychological adjustment of the parents, and changes to agreements after settlement or case closure over twelve years. A total of 71 cases were included in this study. The study found that parents who mediated made more changes to their agreement over twelve years: 1.4 as compared to 0.3. Party satisfaction remained higher for the mediation group after twelve years than for the non-mediation group. Mediation led to greater contact between non-residential parents and children (30% of the mediation group parents saw their children once a week or more, compared to 9% for the non-mediation group; 39% of non-residential parents in the non-mediation group saw their children one time or less in the last year as compared to 15% of mediation parents). Non-residential parents in the mediation group are significantly more likely to discuss problems with residential parents, and significantly more likely to be involved in childrearing decisions. No difference was found twelve years later in the mental health of children and parents.

  • The Role of Antecedent and Procedural Characteristics in Mediation: A Review of the Research
    Wissler, Roselle L.. The Blackwell Handbook of Mediation: Bridging Theory, Research, and Practice, pp. 129-147, 2006

    Abstract: An examination of the factors that have been found to contribute to the effectiveness of mediation. The author looks at empirical research in domestic relations, community, small claims, civil, and appellate civil mediation to discern the factors contributing to the success of mediation in each area.

    The relationship between parties and the level of conflict in the relationship affected the likely success in community mediation and domestic relations, but not in small claims or civil. However, the intensity of the dispute affected success across all areas. The mediators most likely to settle cases were those who had the most experience mediating. Specific skills were found to lead to greater success, as were certain actions taken by mediators, attorneys, and parties.

  • Alaska's Adult Guardianship Mediation Project Evaluation
    Carns, Teresa W.; McKelvie, Susan. March 2009

    Abstract: This evaluation looked at data from 103 mediations and 260 participants. Mediation resulted in agreement on all or some of the issues 87% of the time, and in those cases in which Alaska Protective Services was involved, 91% of the agreements were found to have "an acceptable level of risk." Agreements were more likely to be reached for living arrangements, level of care needed, whether guardianship or conservatorship was needed, and how decisions should be made. Plans for dealing with family conflict were least likely to be agreed upon at mediation.

    Participants were largely satisfied with the process and felt they were listened to, understood, and treated fairly and with respect. There were no differences in these responses based on the participants' role. Interviews suggested that mediation reduced the number of contested hearings; however, there was insufficient data to verify this.

  • Child Protection Mediation: An Evaluation of Services Provided by Cook County Juvenile Court
    Shack, Jennifer E.. 2010

    Abstract: This evaluation looked at three areas: program performance, program process, and stakeholder assessment of mediation and understanding of its role and function within the child protection system. The study included data from 164 cases referred to mediation, as well as interviews of mediation participants, judges, attorneys and program staff. Participants, particularly family members, have very positive reactions to the program. However, very few are given the opportunity to experience it. Judges and hearing officers see the value in the program, but do not often make referrals to it. The majority of judges and attorneys interviewed believed mediation could occur early on, but almost always referred cases to the program after the disposition hearing (generally two years after the children were brought into the system). This is the paradox of the program. It works well, is well-regarded by almost everyone, and the participant families find it to be a rewarding experience, but it is underutilized.

    The author is an RSI staff member.

  • The Effectiveness of Case Evaluation and Mediation in Michigan Circuit Courts
    Campbell, Teresa G.; Pizzuti, Sharon L.. October 31, 2011

    Abstract: The Michigan Office of Dispute Resolution recently released a study that showed the use of case evaluation and mediation for civil cases in the state's circuit courts led to higher settlement rates than when neither process was used. Among the study's 33 main findings, the authors reported that the increase in settlement rates was especially pronounced when mediation was used, and mediation was also found to reduce costs for courts and parties. Although the use of case evaluation did have a positive result on settlement rates, it was found to "significantly increase the length of a time a case was open." The study, conducted by Courtland Consulting, looked at tort and non-tort cases seeking monetary awards of more than $25,000. Tort cases are required by Michigan Supreme Court rule to be referred to case evaluation, a process in which a panel of three attorneys appointed by the court hears both sides of a case and then renders a monetary judgment. The authors provide many recommendations for improving both the case evaluation and mediation processes. They also encourage courts to continue offering both processes, but, given the evidence that mediation is more effective, to not require case evaluation for non-tort cases.