National Center for Access to Justice

DOJ to Courts: Evaluate Your Foreclosure Mediation Programs

 A new Department of Justice report urges courts to examine the effects of foreclosure mediation programs.  As the report documents, courts have implemented mediation programs to try to deal with the flood of foreclosure filings over the past few years.  The formats vary widely:  some are voluntary, while others are mandatory; some operate before a foreclosure is filed, while others operate only after filing; some require lenders to participate, while others do not; homeowners are provided with attorneys or housing counselors in some programs but not others.  Overall, the report calls the programs “promising” but notes that “research is needed to assess the effectiveness of this particular intervention . . . as well as the real and comparative impact of particular program features.” 

 DOJ’s call for information assessing the effectiveness of foreclosure mediation proceedings is part of a growing effort to use performance measurement to improve the quality of justice.  David Udell, Executive Director of the National Center for Access to Justice, has written, “America’s justice system should not be a mystery, and its workings should be open and understandable to all.”  As the resources available for our nation’s courts become increasingly scarce, it is vital to ensure that they are well spent.  And, as the DOJ emphasizes, performance measurement can persuade a legislature that tax dollars should be spent on court innovations such as mediation programs.  Most importantly, performance measurement of the sort DOJ envisions reassures members of the public that they can rely on the justice system in times of need. (originally posted Jan. 11, 2012 by Laura Abel)