For this study of the effect of mediation on party attitudes and post-disposition activity, small claims cases were randomly offered the option to mediate on the day of trial. Parties in both the mediation group and the traditional group were interviewed before and after their process, and then again 3-6 months later. The study found that those who went through mediation were more likely to feel they were able to express themselves and to feel the issues were resolved. In the long term, they were more likely to believe the outcome was working, to be satisfied with the outcome and to be satisfied with the judicial system. Those who reached agreement in mediation were less likely to return to court for an enforcement action in the 12 months after their case was closed than those who didn’t reach agreement in mediation (including those who reached agreement on their own and those who went to trial).
Description of Study: Comparison study of small claims cases in two jurisdictions in Maryland in which parties were randomly offered the option to mediate on the day of trial. The study looked at the effect of mediation on party attitudes and durability of outcomes.
Method: Mediation was randomly offered to parties. If both parties accepted, the case was mediated. If not, the case was not included in the study. Those to whom mediation was not offered went through the traditional process. Parties in both groups were surveyed before and after ADR/trial, and interviewed by phone 3-6 months later. Court records were examined 12 months later to determine whether a case returned for an enforcement action.
Comparison Groups: Cases randomly offered mediation and those who were not offered mediation. These were subcategorized into those that reached agreement (either in mediation or prior to trial) and those that did not.
Sample Size: 461 cases were involved in the short-term analysis (the day of trial) and 166 in the long-term analysis (3-6 months later).
Variables Examined: Satisfaction with justice system, satisfaction with outcome, compliance/durability of agreement
Program Variables: Volunteer mediators attended court calls to mediate cases on the day of trial. For this study, mediation was randomly offered to parties. Mediation took place in a private room in the courthouse. The average length of session was 56 minutes.
Findings: In the short term (just after ADR/trial), those who participated in mediation were significantly more likely to feel they could express themselves, to believe the underlying issues came out and that the issues were resolved. They were also more likely to say they acknowledged responsibility. Those who reached agreement in mediation were more likely to be satisfied with the judicial system than those in any of the other three groups (mediation group: didn’t reach agreement in mediation, control group: reached agreement before trial, control group: didn’t reach agreement before trial).
In the long term, those who mediated were significantly more likely to report an improved relationship with the other party, to say the outcome was working, and to be satisfied with the outcome and the judicial system. Those who reached agreement in mediation were less likely to return for an enforcement action in the 12 months after case closure (compared to those who didn’t reach agreement in mediation, those who reached agreement on their own and those who went to trial).