The Judicial Conflict Resolution (JCR) Collaboratory is a five-year long research conducted in Israel, Italy, and England and Wales, supported by a grant from the European Research Council (ERC). The research examines contemporary roles of judges in civil and criminal courts in which trials are vanishing. We explore the prevalent settlement and plea-bargain culture, where conflict resolution practices are performed in the shadow of authority. This investigation is motivated by two working hypotheses: first, that many case dispositions occur without trial or without a contested judgment, as the result of active conflict resolution activities conducted by the presiding judge(s); and second, that these JCR activities are not necessarily reflected in the formal case record.

Using a mixed-methods approach, the project aims to capture and analyze JCR practices, reflect on the changing roles of judges, develop a descriptive typology of settlement-inducing roles that judges play in court hearings and a current jurisprudence of judicial conflict resolution. We further wish to impact policies for improved court process designs and procedural rules, ethical conduct rules and regulation of judicial work of settlement, as well as judicial training.


Research Objectives:

The overarching goal of the project is to understand the role of judges in promoting case dispositions without full-blown adjudication, ranging from settlements and voluntary dismissals to summary-judgements and contested judgements without trial in civil proceedings, and focusing on plea-bargains in criminal proceedings (Hereinafter: “JCR Dispositions”). Our main theoretical objective is to develop a jurisprudence of JCR practices and a current conceptualization of the role of judges. Normatively, we describe and analyze the regulatory and procedural framework in which judges operate to promote JCR Dispositions. Empirically, we analyze court dockets with regard to the distribution and relationship between case types, procedural mechanisms, modes of disposition and outcomes. In addition, we conduct large-scale courtroom observations in order to capture JCR practices on the ground and systematically analyze them to generate a typology of JCR. Relatedly, we conduct interviews with relevant stakeholders to capture their perception on JCR. Prescriptively, our goal is to improve courts’ institutional and professional operation with regard to JCR activities, by making recommendations for—and assisting the implementation of—appropriate court procedures and system design, legislation and regulation, developing and conducting JCR-related judicial training and disseminating and implementing knowledge about JCR.