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Illinois Court ADR Sourcebook


The Illinois Court ADR Sourcebook is a comprehensive reference for information on court ADR in the state and federal courts of Illinois. Because of the number and variety of resources, they have been organized in several ways to make them more readily accessible.

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Note: Court ADR efforts are dynamic. While RSI works to maintain all resources in a timely manner, visitors may want to seek the original source material. (See disclaimer.) Updates or suggestions of additional information on court ADR programs in Illinois are welcome. To provide information, contact RSI. To find resources related to states outside Illinois, go to Court ADR Across the US.

Summary of ADR in Illinois

Various factors relate to the state of court ADR in Illinois. They include where the authority comes from for court ADR, whether there is a state office of court ADR, what kind of presence court ADR maintains on the Internet, how to describe the leadership for court ADR in the state, court ADR services in the state, the environment in which court ADR functions, the funding sources that support court ADR, and anything unusual about court ADR in the state.

Authority for Court ADR
Federal courts
The federal courts function primarily under the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of 1998 in establishing ADR efforts. The predominant approach to ADR in the three District Courts in Illinois has been for magistrate judges to conduct settlement conferences. There have, however, been several other approaches attempted, some by local rule and some that started by order of particular judges. These have met with limited success.

State courts
There is no comprehensive statewide statute for all ADR programs or for neutral certification in the state; however, there are statutes and Illinois Supreme Court Rules that typically make ADR processes optional for counties or judicial circuits that choose to address particular case types. Those programs are then usually implemented through the adoption of local rules that are approved by the Illinois Supreme Court. Mediators in those approved programs have immunity to the same extent as judges. The one program that is comprehensive throughout the state is a requirement under state rule that all judicial circuits provide mediation for contested custody and visitation matters.

Court ADR Office and Web Presence
In Illinois, there is currently no stand-alone court ADR office with a dedicated staff or budget in either the state or federal court systems. The Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts provides staff support to the Illinois Judicial Conference Alternative Dispute Resolution Coordinating Committee. The state and federal courts include court rules and forms for their ADR programs on their web sites to the same extent they provide other rules and forms. There is a specific web presence about ADR on some court sites. The unique site, of course, is this one, No other state has a non-profit that provides this extensive level of information about state and federal court ADR.

In Illinois, the court ADR programs have developed as a result of leadership from local courts and bar associations who have worked to establish programs in individual judicial circuits in Illinois. They have received support from other judges and former judges across the state, including RSI Executive Committee members.

Synopsis of Services
Focus of programs

  • The one program that is mandated by Illinois Supreme Court Rule throughout the state is mediation of all custody and visitation cases, whether the parents were married or not and whether the case is an initial conflict (e.g., divorce) or a later controversy (e.g., post-decree.)
  • The next most extensively implemented optional court ADR programs in Illinois are the nonbinding arbitration programs for civil cases with amounts in controversy up to $50,000.
  • Voluntary mediation programs have been established to address major civil litigation cases above the arbitration limit in about half the judicial circuits in the state.
  • There are various approaches to conflicts involving juveniles around the state ranging from child dependency mediation program in to family group conferencing.
  • Small claims and housing cases also are mediated in several programs around the state.

Structure of programs
  • The arbitrations are conducted by three-lawyer panels who are paid by the state, in programs managed by the state.
  • Family cases are conducted by mediators with backgrounds ranging from law to family therapy to volunteers with varied backgrounds. Some are paid by the county, some by the parties and others volunteer, depending on the jurisdiction.
  • Family cases are also mediated by judges in some programs. They handle cases that are not going to come before them for litigation.
  • Cook County has a very active volunteer mediator program through the Center for Conflict Resolution. Volunteers from the Illinois Chapter of the Association of Attorney-Mediators also mediate small claims cases in Will County.
  • Several law schools around the state have clinics in which students mediate.
  • Lawyers make up the rosters for all the large civil case mediation programs in the state.

Services for poor and low-income disputants

The Environment for ADR
The Uniform Mediation Act, 710 ILCS 35, was enacted in Illinois in 2003, providing a privilege for mediation communications in court mediations as well as other mediations. There is, however, no statewide certification of neutrals. Nor are there any ethical guidelines or standards on a statewide basis. Local judicial circuits determine who is approved to mediate in their programs and what the ethical standards are, if any. There is no statewide grievance procedure.

Funding Sources for Court ADR

Non-profit organizations that provide mediation services through the courts also rely on grants, special events, and donations from law firms and individuals. They may also generate fees for services for training, etc.

Any state may have an unusual, or even unique, characteristic. In Illinois, that is Resolution Systems Institute. Unlike other states, Illinois has the services of a non-profit organization that exists solely to assist courts in making more effective use of alternative methods of dispute resolution. RSI has assisted local courts in developing mediation programs when there has been no other support available and in creating systems for monitoring and evaluating those programs.