Description of Study: 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.
Method: 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. 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.
Comparison Groups: Cases randomly assigned to mediation or not to be mediated
Sample Size: 1811 cases in pilot programs (1060 assigned to mediation, 683 not assigned)
Variables Examined: Time to disposition, case activity, timing of referral, party and attorney satisfaction and perception of fairness
Program Variables: Semi-voluntary programs in which 73% of cases entered mediation through court order or request by one party. In pilot courts, recent cases were also randomly assigned. Mediation was free to the parties. Mediators in pilot courts were attorneys on staff; mediators for the settlement week program were volunteers who were attorneys. The mediation style tended to be evaluative. Cases in the pilot programs were referred approximately 4 months after filing; for settlement week, mediation occurred on average 10.5 months after filing.
Case types: Civil
Findings: Taken in aggregate, 72% of parties to mediation in all programs perceived the process to be very fair. 55% 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. 97% 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.