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Article: Updating the Multi-Door Courthouse

Updating the Multi-Door Courthouse

The classic notion of a “multi-door” courthouse needs to be significantly reformed based on experience and current needs in order to develop efficient court screening processes for determining which cases will benefit from mediation and which will not, according to Barry Edwards in “Renovating the Multi-Door Courthouse: Designing Trial Court Dispute Resolution Systems to Improve Results and Control Costs” (Harvard Negotiation Law Review). The lengthy article examines the elements that result in settlement and encourages system design to build on them. Using empirical data from real world observations rather than relying on pilot projects as common in the past, the article contains many points of interest, including:

  • Subsequent mediation sessions have settlement rates similar to initial sessions, despite the pessimism of counsel that further mediation would be helpful.
  • Mediations ending in settlement take significantly longer than those ending in impasse.
  • Cases sent to mediation very often are negotiated and resolved prior to mediation; many more settlements occur outside mediation than in mediation.
  • Courts are ill-equipped to make decisions for parties and should empower litigants to make their own strategic dispute resolution choices.

A key conclusion of the article is that resolving cases through mediation will reduce the great personal hardships of those involved, as well as reducing court congestion and permitting courts to focus on the novel cases requiring judicial attention.