Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

New Online Portal For Rule 31 Mediators Latest Example Of Court Modernization Efforts

January 3, 2020

Tennessee’s Rule 31 mediators play an essential role in modernizing the state’s justice system, helping to reduce costs and delays related to the resolution of legal disputes. But, until recently, the systems used to track the mediators and their work were anything but modern and efficient.

The Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission and the Administrative Office of the Courts have created a new, online “one-stop shop” where all of the most important data related to Rule 31 mediation can be collected. This new ADR System is a huge boost to efficiency, drastically cutting the amount of paper and labor needed to process continuing mediation education documents and other mediation-related records. The system also makes it easier for the mediators themselves to stay on top of their renewal statuses and reporting.

“Over the past several years, we have reviewed every process and system looking for ways to modernize the court system and AOC,” said AOC Director Deborah Taylor Tate. “We are so pleased to bring this new system online for mediators, who make a tremendous positive impact in terms of both cost and time savings to Tennesseans and the courts alike.”

The change to the new system was a necessary one, the AOC’s Programs and Innovative Projects Manager John Jefferson said.

“We had stacks and stacks of paper,” he explained, especially during the October through December renewal period each year. “Renewal info for all 1,300 Rule 31 mediators in the state needed to be collected and then reviewed in that 90-day period, and it was getting overwhelming.”

Instead of having to handle handwritten info and printed-out forms, AOC staff can now process all of the information they need for renewals via the new online portal. And, mediators no longer need to wait to receive confirmation that their renewal checks and forms have been received and processed. They can review that information themselves online.

Renewing is not the only process that the new system streamlines. The ADR System also provides mediators with a simpler, more integrated way to report their mediation cases. The user-friendly interface allows mediators to enter in all of the vital information about their cases with minimal effort.

The same is true for mediators’ continuing education requirements. Mediators can enter information about the courses they attend into the new system, and education providers can upload attendance reports that automatically load in a mediator’s profile. This process makes it easier than ever for mediators to keep track of their hours throughout the year.

Much of the most essential data is visible immediately upon logging in. The first things mediators see is a menu clearly listing things like their next renewal date, their continuing mediation education deadline, and their current number of continuing education hours, information that previously was stored in a variety of different places.

“Prior to the new platform for mediators, there was no way for mediators to view the information on their Rule 31 mediator listing online,” Jefferson said.  “They weren’t able to update their contact information without notifying AOC staff by phone or email.  The new system allows our partners, the Rule 31 mediators, continuing education providers, and mediator trainers, to seamlessly upload information and update the AOC.  The new platform ensures that the general public, lawyers, judges, and court clerks have current and trusted information to make an informed decision when using Rule 31 mediation.”

The new upgrades are part of the ADR Commission and the AOC’s commitment to court modernization. The new system was built in-house by the AOC Technology Services Division, with work led by Jason Hatton, Jim Miller, Pat Morey, Amy Park, Dhara Patel, Hans Schachtschneider, Conner Stephens, and Terry Tewell.

“The Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission is proud to have assisted the Tennessee Supreme Court in this project,” Ed Silva, Chair of the ADR Commission said.  “This is just one example of the Court constantly trying to make sure that everyone has the most up-to-date resources possible so that they can do their jobs as effectively and efficiently as possible.”

Tennessee’s Rule 31 was enacted by the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1996 for the purpose of creating a system where litigants, courts, and attorneys could locate qualified alternative dispute resolution mediators and other neutrals and enlist their assistance in resolving matters pending before courts of record. Some of Rule 31’s Mediation’s many advantages over taking a case to trial include its relative expediency, its lower costs, and the confidentiality it offers, among other things.

A list of Rule 31 mediators in Tennessee can be found on the AOC website.