The US District Court for the Western District of New York  pulled settlement week out of the dustbin to help clear some its back log in November 2017.  For those who aren’t familiar with settlement week, a court designates a week to bring civil litigants and mediators to the courthouse in an attempt to resolve as many matters as possible.  From the US Courts news release:

“I was skeptical when I first heard of the court’s plan to host in-house mediation,” said Hugh Russ, a private attorney who served as a mediator during the Buffalo Settlement Week. “It sounded like an imposition on the part of the court that wouldn’t produce results much different from off-site mediation.  However, after participating in Settlement Week, I saw that parties responded to the court’s interest in their cases by coming to the courthouse prepared and serious about opening up the lines of communication necessary to reach a resolution.”

“The entire process was very smooth; the court gave us all the time we needed to come to an agreement with the other party,” said Richard Saraf, an attorney who attended the Rochester Settlement Week. “In early mediation attorneys often try to intimidate each other because there is still ambiguity in the case. Once you’ve gone through the discovery process the strengths and weaknesses of each side become much more apparent, making it easier for parties to come to terms with settlement.”

The court will conduct a thorough evaluation of the program in the coming months to determine how settlement weeks can be used in the future.

My interest was piqued in the article – 89 cases were referred to mediation and 19 settled.  For folks, like judges and court administrators, who care about the numbers, this might not seem to be very successful.  But with this court’s docket, each judge having 800 open cases at one time (!!!), don’t be surprised if there’s another settlement week next year.

Art Hinshaw is a Clinical Professor of Law and the Director of the Lodestar Dispute Resolution Program at ASU Sandra Day O'Conner College of Law. His research and teaching interests focus primarily on mediation and negotiation, often bridging ADR theory and practice. He is an avid writer and contributor to ADR Prof Blog.