This evaluation examines the mediation programs in both District Court (small claims cases) and Superior Court (a variety of civil cases) in terms of the case outcome and satisfaction with the process and outcome. It found that in all programs there was a high level of satisfaction with both process and outcome, and greater satisfaction with the process than the outcome. Satisfaction was tied to whether settlement was achieved, but not to the reported mediation outcome.
Description of Study: Looked at the attitudes of parties toward mediation in 6 District Court programs and 3 Superior Court programs in Massachusetts.
Method: Used exit survey data from about 80% of all district court cases and 63% of Superior Court cases.
Comparison Groups: N/A
Sample Size: 487 responses in District Court (at least one response from approximately 80% of all cases); 642 in Superior Court (at least one response from approximately 63% of all cases)
Variables Examined: Settlement rate; satisfaction of the parties; improved relationship between parties; attitudes regarding cost, time, and fairness
Program Variables: District Court programs were voluntary, mediated by volunteers, and free to participants. Superior Court programs were voluntary and mediated for a fee. The programs had been in existence several years at the time the study was conducted.
Findings: 33% of District Court mediation participants believed mediation reduced their costs; 45% said it did not. In two of the Superior Court programs 47% of parties thought that mediation reduced their costs while 26% thought it did not. Only 20% of participants in the third program thought their costs were reduced by mediating their case; 49% thought they were not reduced. These results contrast with the responses of the lawyers, 40-67% of whom believed mediation reduced their clients' costs.
In District Court, 70-80% of parties were completely or mostly satisfied with the outcome; 92-100% were satisfied with the fairness of the process. However, only 40% thought mediation improved their relationship with the other party. In the Superior Court programs, 51-71% were satisfied with the outcome of their mediation, while 89-94% were satisfied with the fairness of the process. Fewer believed mediation improved their relationship with the other party, with only 23-43% believing so. There was a high correlation between satisfaction with the outcome and satisfaction with the fairness of the process.