"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).
Description of Study: Reports on two studies comparing mandatory and voluntary mediation: one of mediation in small claims courts and another of mediation conducted in a “settlement week” in common pleas courts.
Method: Small claims: telephone interviews of parties in small claims cases 6-12 weeks after mediation/trial. Civil: questionnaires completed by mediators, attorneys, and parties.
Comparison Groups: Small claims: Those whose mediation was mandatory and those who voluntarily participated. Civil: Voluntary cases (in which both sides asked for mediation), mandated (in which neither side requested mediation), and partially voluntary/partially mandatory (in which one side asked for mediation and the other was compelled to mediate by the court)
Sample Size: Small claims: 171 parties involved in 124 cases. Parties in 37 cases were mandated to mediate; parties in 87 cases participated voluntarily. Civil: 570 mediators, 1124 attorneys, and 646 parties involved in 610 cases completed questionnaires.
Variables Examined: Settlement rate, pressure to settle, satisfaction with the process and outcome, party perception of time and cost savings
Program Variables: Mediation on-site and provided free of charge by volunteer mediators.
Findings: The settlement rate was lower for mandated cases than for voluntary ones. There was no greater sense of pressure to settle for either group. Participants in both mandatory and voluntary mediation were satisfied with the process and outcome, but fewer mandatory participants were satisfied or perceived the process to be fair. Parties thought they were saving time; attorneys thought processing time was greater.