Dispute Resolution Research: Disparity Paper wins Advancement Award

March 15, 2021 – St. John’s University announced the winners of its 2021 Dispute Resolution Research Advancement Award. Researchers Avital Mentovich, J.J. Prescott, and Orna Rabinovich-Einy won the award for their paper: “Are Litigation Outcome Disparities Inevitable? Courts, Technology, and the Future of Impartiality.”

The annual award honors “empirical research that has furthered the advancement and understanding of the values and skills of dispute resolution.” It comes with a $5,000 grant. The award will be presented virtually on April 12, 2021.

This year’s Award winners bring an interdisciplinary perspective to their analysis and comparison of outcome disparities in online and in-person civil-infraction cases. Their paper looks at how ODR might reduce disparities caused by group-based biases related to age, gender, and race. The researchers sampled 5,232 Michigan traffic violation cases: 2,713 in-person hearings and 2,519 online hearings. The study was designed to examine whether ODR blinds judicial bias and whether the structure of the ODR process itself limits the judicial process discretion that increases the likelihood of decision-maker bias. 

from the Award Announcement at St. John’s University

The researchers worked with Matterhorn courts to obtain information about online and in-person proceedings.

Dispute Resolution Research Findings

The research suggests that two of the group-based factors, age and race, yield less disparate outcomes when hearings are conducted using ODR. In the age-based comparison, younger drivers appear to pay notably higher fines than older drivers pursuant to in-person hearings. But when hearings are held online, this disparity in outcomes between younger and older drivers seems to evaporate. Considering race, the researchers find substantial evidence, after controlling for observable differences between cases, that Black litigants receive higher court fines and are less likely to receive charge reductions after in-person hearings. These racially disparate outcomes disappear when Black litigants resolve their cases through ODR. The researchers conclude that, under particular design schemes in certain contexts, ODR is capable of producing significantly fairer outcomes for members of disempowered groups.

from the Award Announcement at St. John’s University

Dispute Resolution Research: Video

You can view two of the researchers, Orna Rabinovich-Einy and Avital Mentovich present their research on a webinar.

Read the webinar full transcript.

More about the Researchers

Mentovich and Rabinovich-Einy are both Professors at the University of Haifa in Israel. Mentovich is an Associate Professor of Criminology and Rabinovich-Einy is an Associate Law Professor. J.J. Prescott, Matterhorn’s founder, is the Henry King Ransom Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School.

You can find the full text paper available on the SSRN website: “Are Litigation Outcome Disparities Inevitable? Courts, Technology, and the Future of Impartiality.”

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