Settlement Week is a court-managed program to reduce court backlogs by using mediation to resolve pending civil or domestic relations cases.
The court designates a specific time period, which can be a week or just a few days, and selects cases for mediation, based on recommendations from judges, attorneys, or parties in dispute.
Experienced mediators are assigned cases by the court based on the mediator’s area of expertise. The mediators are asked to serve at reduced rates, and pro bono mediations are often available for lower income parties.
Settlement Week can be beneficial for all involved. The parties have the opportunity to work with an experienced mediator to settle their disputes expeditiously, outside of court, saving the time and expense of going to trial. The court can reduce its caseload, allowing the courts to focus on the cases which cannot be resolved, except by trial.
Settlement Week is in use in Ohio courts and has successfully reduced trial dockets and over-age civil cases in Ohio courts.
Courts wishing to begin a Settlement Week program may want to talk with courts that have had successful programs for more detailed and specific information.
The following is an overview of the Settlement Week process for courts considering holding a settlement week.
- The Administrative Judge or Court Administrator selects the Settlement Week dates. Settlement Week can be scheduled any time during the year and may be scheduled for less than a full week. Some courts like to schedule Settlement Week during judicial conferences.
- The Administrative Judge or Court Administrator notifies the court’s judges, magistrates, court staff and the local bar association of the Settlement Week dates and establishes the criteria and process for referral of cases to Settlement Week. The Administrative Judge or Court Administrator also identifies Settlement Week coordinator(s) (hereafter “coordinator”) to oversee and manage the Settlement Week logistics.
- The Administrative Judge or Court Administrator sets a reduced hourly rate, which is the maximum a mediator may charge for Settlement Week cases, any pro bono or volunteer requirements for Settlement Week mediators, any limitations on the number of hours for Settlement Week mediation sessions, and any provisions regarding follow-up mediation sessions.
- The coordinator notifies the judges and magistrates of the criteria and process to refer cases for Settlement Week.
- The coordinator publicizes Settlement Week to the local bar association, attorneys who practice in the court and others who might refer cases and informs them of the criteria and process to refer cases for Settlement Week.
- The coordinator publicizes Settlement Week to mediators and local mediation organizations and informs them of the Settlement Week mediator application process and requirements.
- The coordinator reviews mediator applications and selects qualified mediators for Settlement Week. The coordinator provides mediator guidelines and forms to the mediators selected for Settlement Week.
- The coordinator reviews the case files of cases referred to Settlement Week and makes a recommendation to the court about which cases to include in Settlement Week, which cases to include if there is room, and which cases not to include in Settlement Week. The court makes the final decision about which cases will be scheduled for Settlement Week mediation.
- The coordinator develops a Settlement Week mediation schedule. The coordinator considers a mediator’s experience and areas of expertise in making mediator case assignments.
- The assigned judges and magistrates issue Settlement Week Orders on cases that will be included in Settlement Week. These orders include the date, time and location of the mediation, information about mediation costs and other relevant information.
- The Administrative Judge may establish a process to have agreements reached in mediation acknowledged following mediation.
- The coordinator and court staff work together to coordinate and oversee the Settlement Week logistics.
- The coordinator ensures that mediation outcome notices are filed for all cases mediated during Settlement Week.
- The coordinator prepares Settlement Week statistics and provides them to Court.
For more detailed information contact the Dispute Resolution Section at 614.387.9420 or DisputeResolution@sc.ohio.gov.
- Bench – Bar cooperation. Settlement Week is a bench-bar collaboration to reduce court backlogs by using mediation to resolve pending civil or domestic relations cases. Involve your local bar association in Settlement Week plans! Attorneys can identify cases that are ready for mediation and suggest mediators who might mediate Settlement Week cases. Attorneys representing parties in Settlement Week mediations can encourage their clients to actively participate in the mediation process.
- Appropriate case selection. Judges, magistrates, attorneys, self-represented parties, and others can recommend possible Settlement Week cases. Encourage them to only submit cases that appear ripe for mediation. Screen out cases that do not seem suitable for mediation. This will help boost the success rate and reduce everyone’s frustration with cases that have little or no hope of settling.
- Prepared mediators. Make sure all the Settlement Week mediators know your requirements and expectations. Even experienced mediators need instruction about your local Settlement Week process.
- Match mediators to the cases. An effective mediator has both process skills and subject matter knowledge. Mediators need to know the terminology and concepts of the cases they are mediating. Match more experienced mediators to the more difficult cases. This improves the likelihood of success and increases party and advocate satisfaction.
- Use forms and procedures other courts have developed. Using experience-tested and polished forms and successful procedures helps speed the organization process. Courts with successful Settlement Week programs are usually very open to sharing their forms and procedures. Sample forms are also available on the Supreme Court of Ohio, Dispute Resolution Section website.
- Keep statistics and get feedback. Knowing the success rate and getting both positive and negative feedback from parties, advocates, mediators, court staff, and others provides valuable information to use in planning improvements for future Settlement Weeks.
- Have a specific day for follow-up mediation sessions. Having a specific day, approximately one month after Settlement Week, for follow-up mediation sessions, helps boost the success rate.
Courts need qualified and experienced mediators to mediate Settlement Week cases.
Settlement Week mediators for civil cases must meet the training and education requirements specified in Rule 16.23(A) of the Supreme Court of Ohio Rules of Superintendence for the Courts of Ohio.
Settlement Week mediators for domestic relations and juvenile court cases including termination of marriage, allocation of parental rights and responsibilities and care of or visitation with minor children must meet the training and education requirements specified in Rule 16.23(A) and 16.23(B)(1) of the Supreme Court of Ohio Rules of Superintendence for the Courts of Ohio.
Individual courts may have additional requirements for Settlement Week mediators.
Click the links for sample application forms for Settlement Week mediators.
Click the links for sample resources compiled from information provided by several Ohio Settlement Week programs.
Supreme Court of Ohio
65 South Front Street, 6th Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215-3431
Marya Kolman, Esq.
Anne Thompson, Esq.