New Year Newsletter September 2017





Dear JCR community


It is my honor and pleasure to send you blessings for the new upcoming Jewish year, to outline our progress so far and to share information about some developments we had


JCR Goals


The ERC commissioned research on Judicial Conflict Resolution (JCR) is a five-year long comparative research project of judicial dispute resolution practices in Israel, Italy, and England and Wales. The research is inspired by the “vanishing trial” phenomenon, and is motivated by two working hypotheses: first, that many case dispositions occur without trial or without a contested judgment as the result of active dispute 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 research approach, the project aims to capture and analyze JCR practices, reflect on the changing roles of judges and develop a descriptive typology of settlement inducing roles that judges play in court hearings and a current jurisprudence of judicial conflict resolution. Finally, the research is intended to make policy recommendations for improved court process designs and procedural rules, ethical conduct rules and regulation of judicial work of settlement, as well as develop dialogue and training schemes with judges and court administrators.


Mapping the regulatory framework


The first stage of the research included the collection of data on court-connected settlements, the legal framework governing judicially-induced settlements, and the settlement culture in each state. It included court docket data analysis, interviews with lawyers, judges and court administrators and exploratory open-ended pilot observations in trial courts. The goals of this stage were to provide context and framework for studying the phenomenon of JCR in each site of research and for outlining the scope of the comparative aspect of the research. This stage was also intended to develop the foundation of a systematic observation methodology and a framework of analysis to be applied in later stages.


Concluding the first stage, the regulatory mapping activity has been completed in the three states of research as planned. It revealed diverse legal regimes and cultures in reference to settlement activities of judges, and different interplays between overriding objectives and actual activities. A memorandum summarizing the main findings is available, and this activity will result in a few publications.



Quantitative Mapping of the Settlement Phenomenon


During the initial stages of gathering court docket and case-record data for purposes of quantitative analysis of court-connected settlements and related judicial activity, we discovered that in the three states of research there are difficulties in obtaining reliable docket data through electronic records. Relevant data is either not available in the official electronic court record or it is significantly unreliable with respect to key variables of interest, such as mode of disposition.  We therefore adopted a different research approach than the one originally planned. Originally, we planned to use descriptive statistics of case dockets and to learn about settlement by using “big data”. Due to the problems of reliability and availability mentioned above, we are now working with representative samples of cases in which relevant data is coded based on all case documents. This will enable us to provide a more accurate and comprehensive picture of the court-connected settlement phenomenon and possibly model some of its predictors. By comparing the values that were individually-coded for each variable of interest in our representative sample to the values reported in the electronic dockets of the court systems in the three research states, we expect not only to expose the magnitude of inaccuracies in the electronic docket, but also to allow for a statistical correction of the reality of settlements and all other types of case dispositions. Thus, this work can inform researchers, policy makers and court-related stakeholders about the actual operation of courts on the ground


Building a methodology for Court Observations


During the first stage, we conducted exploratory observations in courtrooms in Israel, Italy, and England and Wales. The findings of these preliminary pilot observations yielded very rich data, and inspired the expansion of the observation activity through the creation of a methodology for systematic courtroom observation and systematic analysis of a larger sample of hundreds of observations. Accordingly, based on the pilot study we are currently designing the methodology for conducting more systematic observations in the second stage of the research. To that end, we are now exploring the use of both qualitative processing software and a quantitative analysis strategy.


Building Theory and Increasing Outreach


During the first stage of the research, we established the JCR Collaborator Circles, which are biweekly seminars that are aimed at creating a multidisciplinary community interested in the JCR research themes and engaged with the project’s work. Participants in these circles include students, researchers, judges, mediators, lawyers, policy-makers and all who wish to join the JCR Collboratory mission to learn, shape and advance JCR. In each seminar, a speaker leads the participating collaborators through the study of a different facet of JCR, followed by an open discussion.

In the seminars we have held thus far, we were able to host leading scholars and judges, and deal with various topics, including: the vanishing trial phenomenon and mixed methods challenges working with big data; observations in courtrooms: empirical challenges; regulation studies and the work of judges; generative narratives of the judicial role; autonomy, right enforcement and settlement: reflections from England and Wales; compromise in Jewish law and the role of the Dayan; the possibility of evidence based criminal justice; settlement culture in the courtroom – new projects and ethical aspects; managerial judges; constructive processing of legal conflicts; judicial ethics and new roles of judges; emotion and emotion regulation in conflicts.


The JCR Collaborator Circle Seminars serve as a critical bouncing board throughout the progression of the research and are particularly helpful in advancing JCR theory building throughout the phases of the project. Many of the participants of the JCR Collaborator Circles will actively contribute to articulating and addressing the theoretical and comparative foundations of the research in the project’s planned articles and books. The JCR circles and the research activities have already contributed to wide outreach and awareness to the project within the legal community. Many judges and prominent lawyers attend our circles and conferences and these events are videotaped and published on our website


International network and impact


During the first two year of the project our team presented findings and theories of JCR in London, Firenze, Bologna, Fiesole, Chicago Law School (Judicial behaviour workshop), Fordham University, Conferences in New Orleans, Mexico City, and will be soon presenting papers at Georgetown University and again at Chicago Law School Judicial behaviour workshop. We expect our work to have global impact on the understanding of the role of law in society in an era of settlement.


The next stages of the research and activities in the coming year


The second stage of the research entails interviews with judges, lawyers and parties, in three States of research. It also entails systematic observations of JCR practices in trial courts hearings in three States of research. Through deliberation assisted by the advisory board, the research circle and the core and local teams, a protocol and instrument for conducting systematic observations has already been developed and will be further adapted.  Specific sites of observations will be selected next year, in order to capture and analyze judicial conflict resolution practices in an effective and systematic fashion. Observations at these sites will be conducted by the JCR clinic students and senior team. The goal is to choose criminal and civil sites for observations according to the types of conflicts and proceedings which are expected to manifest intensive and rich work of settlement and conflict resolution by


JCR circles will continue to gather this year, focusing on engagement with judges lawyers, and on processing research findings. Detailed information will come later and you are invited to join!


The third and final stage of the JCR research will be dedicated to preparing a training workshop for judges from three States. This stage will also entail dissemination through conferences and consultation with local teams and advisory board. We are planning to publish two books which will capture some JCR activities and more information about this process will come soon.




Changes and Transitions in JCR Personnel and Preparing for next Stages


The JCR collaboratory attracts excellent academic staff and we are happy to report that a few of our research team have received tenure track positions in Israeli universities and starting from 2018 they will collaborate with us under different titles within the project organization. Dr Nourit Zimerman the research director and Dr Ayelet Sela the socio-legal coordinator will now move to different positions and Dr. Dana Rosen and Dr. Hadas Cohen will take new roles as quantitative and qualitative coordinator of the project. We thank Nourit and Ayelet for their wonderful work so far and sure that they will continue working with us and to prosper and develop. We welcome Dana and Hadas and wish them good luck in their new roles. A few more post doc positions will enable us to increase our activities and more details about thse changes will follow in the next letter.


It is exciting to report about the rich activity that has been done in our JCR collaboratory so far and to look forward with hope to more developments and influence on the global legal culture and the perception of law and settlement. We thank our friends and community for being with us and for supporting this ground-breaking research project and we wish you all Happy New Year, filled with rich relationship, growth and learning, and with more peace.


Shana Tova!





Michal Alberstein and JCR team