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Alternative dispute resolution clearinghouse

Thank you for visiting the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Clearinghouse!

Choosing from the following two links or scroll down the page for information on ADR in Wisconsin. The first contains background and historical information; the second contains results of a survey of Wisconsin's circuit court judges regarding their use of ADR methods. This section of the clearinghouse will grow and evolve in the future as attorneys and others are surveyed regarding their experiences with ADR.

Background and history of ADR in Wisconsin

In 1993, the Wisconsin Supreme Court adopted a rule (Wis. Stat. § 802.12) authorizing circuit courts to use specified means of alternative dispute resolution in (ADR) appropriate cases. The Legislature has also mandated that certain disputes in family matters be subject to mediation (Wis. Stat. § 767.12). ADR is sometimes referred to as complementary dispute resolution, meaning that various processes are available through the court system to supplement traditional litigation to resolve disputes. In accordance with the Supreme Court rule, the Court is conducting a review and evaluation of court-connected alternative dispute resolution.

Referring cases for ADR
The resolution of disputes by a process other than litigation-known as ADR-is not a new concept. Attorneys have always used negotiation to settle cases and to avoid the risks and costs (in time, money and emotion) of trial. Dispute resolution through means other than the courts, such as mediation and arbitration, emerged in the context of labor relations and business conflict.

Today, there are many options other than traditional litigation for resolving disputes. These processes may be initiated before or after litigation has commenced and may be connected with the court or not. Many factors, including congestion in the courts, rising litigation costs and disputants' desire to have more say in the resolution of disputes, have led to court-connected ADR. This report concerns only court-connected ADR.

After public hearing in 1993, the Supreme Court adopted a rule authorizing circuit courts to refer cases for court-connected ADR. This rule is largely based on a study conducted by the Wisconsin Judicial Council. The Council studied private (fee-based) for dispute resolution, non-profit/community-based organizations for the resolution of disputes, statutorily mandated systems and court-related operations in Wisconsin and elsewhere. The Council consulted with ADR providers and professional organizations, including the State Bar of Wisconsin.

The Supreme Court rule allows a judge to order the parties to attempt settlement by selecting a settlement alternative such as binding arbitration, mediation, mini trial, nonbinding arbitration and summary jury trial. The parties may agree on the settlement alternative, the person to provide the settlement alternative and the payment of the provider of a settlement alternative. When the parties cannot agree, the judge selects the least costly settlement alternative that the judge believes is likely to bring the parties together in settlement, but the judge may not order certain settlement alternatives such as binding arbitration or summary jury trial without the parties' consent. These restrictions on the judge's powers when the parties cannot agree preserve the parties' right to jury trial and allow the parties to reject more costly settlement alternatives.

The Supreme Court rule for court-connected ADR sets forth several special considerations for family actions. Even when the parties consent to binding arbitration, the trial court retains responsibility for ensuring that settlement in custody, placement, visitation and support matters conforms to applicable law.

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ADR/Mediation Study Committee
The Supreme Court is interested in how its ADR rule is operating across the state and so the rule provides that ADR should be reviewed. To assist the review process, the Executive Committee of the Judicial Conference created the ADR/ Mediation Study Committee to look into the experiences of other states with ADR, including the qualifications and certification of mediators, and also to submit a proposal for standards, guidelines and grievance procedures for mediators. The chair of the committee was Hon. Robert A. Haase, Winnebago County Circuit Judge and Chief Judge of the Fourth Judicial District (Calumet, Fond du Lac, Manitowoc, Sheboygan and Winnebago Counties). The members of the committee were: Hon. John Decker, Milwaukee County Circuit Court (ret.); Hon. Vivi L. Dilweg, Brown County Circuit Court; Hon. Patrick Madden, Iron County Circuit Court; Hon Robert Sundby, Court of Appeals (ret.) and Professor Eva Soeka, Marquette University.

In developing its recommendations, the committee studied materials from numerous states, made presentations and distributed drafts to professional organizations for discussion and comment and conducted a survey of Wisconsin judges. The committee's recommendations are largely based on the National Standards for Court-connected Mediation Programs (Center for Dispute Settlement, 1992) and incorporate features of various codes of professional organizations. Among the committee's recommendations was that the Supreme Court:

The committee's final report was submitted to the Judicial Conference in October 1996. Copies of the ADR/Mediation Study Committee's report may be obtained from the Director of State Courts office. Comments and suggestions are welcomed as the Supreme Court and the Judicial Conference review Wisconsin's experience with ADR and contemplate future action on court-connected ADR.

For further information about volunteer mediation programs, one aspect of court-connected ADR, please consult the information sheet entitled Volunteer Mediation in Wisconsin or call the Wisconsin Supreme Court at (608) 266-1298.

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Alternative Dispute Resolution survey results

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), simply stated, refers to a variety of methods that can be used to resolve disputes early in the legal process, without a judge or jury deciding the case. Details about these methods, and the authorization for their use, appear in Section 802.12 of the Wisconsin Statutes.

The following information concerns the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in Wisconsin courtrooms. It is meant to be a "clearinghouse," or central location, which interested parties can access as they develop new ADR programs, modify existing programs, search for contacts for advice and consultation, or simply seek to learn more about ADR use in the state. At the present time, ADR is a very popular civil case management tool. However, utilization varies greatly from county to county, with no formal mechanism for sharing critical information. This portion of the Wisconsin Court System's website attempts to provide some of that coordination and structure.

This information was developed by members of the Planning and Policy Advisory Committee's ADR subcommittee, formed in the Fall of 1998. It presently contains the results of written surveys of Wisconsin County Circuit Court judges. This site will continue to grow and evolve as the subcommittee conducts additional surveys of judges, attorneys and others in an attempt to "get the word out" about how ADR is being used in the state and the results of that use.

Please feel free to forward your comments, suggestions and any other feedback to:

Office of Court Operations
Phone: (608) 261-3121
Fax: (608) 267-0911

Circuit Court judges survey
In early 1998, the Supreme Court collected data and comments from Wisconsin's circuit court judges regarding their use of ADR. Out of the 230 judges, 174 responded, and more than 41% of the judges with civil caseload at the time indicated they routinely order parties to use some form of ADR. The vast majority of those respondents chose to order mediation.

This information was updated in the summer of 1999, when the ADR subcommittee members mailed a new survey to circuit court judges in Wisconsin. Questions focused on the types, frequency and circumstances in ADR use. The response rate was excellent, exceeding 80%. For more information, see the survey document PDF and two different sets of results: results 1 PDF, results 2 PDF.

Attorney survey
The ADR subcommittee decided to follow up its judicial survey by asking questions of attorneys. In July 2001, the subcommittee launched a pilot survey in Calumet, LaCrosse, Oneida, Waukesha and Winnebago counties. Judicial assistants in each of these counties mailed surveys to attorneys that had represented clients in eight selected civil case types (see results for list of case types). Attorneys were asked several questions, including whether some form of ADR was utilized in an attempt to resolve the dispute, whether the case settled, and to what extent ADR was a contributing factor in any settlement.

For more information, see the survey document PDF and two different sets of results: results 1 PDF, results 2 PDF.

ADR subcommittee members

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