Circuit Court provides additional training for 3,000 attorneys in Mandatory Arbitration Program
Released on 5/11/2012 12:15:16 PM

Circuit Court of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans and First Municipal District Presiding Judge Jacqueline P. Cox announced that almost one third of the attorneys serving in the court's Mandatory Arbitration Program have completed the court's new two-hour additional training class. The court launched the additional training program for certified arbitrators on June 4, 2002.

Chief Judge Evans explained that the program is the first of its kind to be offered since mandatory arbitration was initiated in the Circuit Court of Cook County in 1990. "Many arbitrators have served in the program for several years, some since its inception, without any subsequent formal training," said Chief Judge Evans. "This program offers a comprehensive review of current case law along with refresher points on arbitration strategy and procedures. The purpose of the class is to assist arbitrators in their work as well as to uphold the integrity of the mandatory arbitration process," he said.

All of the court's more than 3,000 arbitrators were notified by letter in March 2002 of the requirement to take the class for which there is no charge nor compensation. The two-hour additional training class is conducted in Room 1501 of the Richard J. Daley Center by Judge John G. Laurie and Judge James P. McCarthy who alternate presenting the class every Tuesday afternoon. Judge Laurie and Judge McCarthy hear all arbitration-related matters in the First Municipal District.

Regular training for new arbitrators is generally held ten times a year, with sessions lasting approximately three hours.

Some of the topics covered in the additional training class include arbitration procedures, drafting of awards, good faith participation by litigants, pro se litigants, the absence of court files at hearings, Supreme Court Rule 237, and setting attorneys' fees.

Judge Cox said the overall response of the arbitrators who have attended the class has been positive. "The arbitrators welcome the court's support that the class provides," said Judge Cox. "Their hard work and dedication have been a great aid to the court," she added. Approximately 60 percent of all cases transferred to the arbitration call never go back to court due to dismissal by settlement or an award that is acceptable to all parties.

Both Judges Laurie and McCarthy agree the class has been well received by arbitrators. "Judge McCarthy and I believe the course is making a tremendous impact on enhancing the arbitrators' ability to conduct fair, impartial, and productive hearings," said Judge Laurie.

Completion of the additional training program by all of the court's arbitrators is expected by late 2002 or early 2003.

The Mandatory Arbitration Program is an alternative dispute resolution process for civil suits seeking monetary damages of $30,000 or less. The process is less formal than a jury trial and is completed in two hours or less. Arbitration hearings are conducted by a three-member panel of arbitrators all of whom are licensed attorneys who have been certified by the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts as having successfully completed training in dispute resolution. Of the three-member panel, two attorneys must have at least three years of active litigation experience, while the third panel member, who serves as the panel chair, is required to have at least five years of active litigation experience or be a retired judge.

Mandatory arbitration hearings are held at 222 North LaSalle Street in Chicago and in all five of Cook County's suburban municipal district court facilities.