American Judges Association


Date of this Version



Court Review, Volume 54, Issue 3 (2018)


Copyright American Judges Association. Used by permission.


In an overburdened justice system, litigants often wade through years of court proceedings and incur significant expenses as they seek civil justice. In many instances, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) procedures can offer litigants relief from the expense and waiting time associated with trial. In addition, compared to trials, ADR options often allow litigants to resolve their disputes in ways that better meet their objectives. For example, ADR permits litigants to set aside the rule of law in the interest of shared goals or industry norms. Further, court-sponsored ADR can increase the efficiency of the judicial system. When litigants are satisfied with their dispute resolution experience, they are more likely to voluntarily comply with the outcome.1 This compliance can mean fewer breach-of-contract claims stemming from settlement agreements and fewer appeals. However, court ADR programs cannot realize these benefits if litigants are unaware of their existence. To assess litigant awareness of court ADR offerings, I conducted a survey study of litigants across three state courts. I review the rather sobering findings, and then discuss specific actions that courts and lawyers can take to improve litigants’ awareness of such programs.