Effective January 2, 2019, the Judicial Branch of the State of Connecticut has formally entered the world of virtual mediation with the introduction of a pilot in the Judicial Districts of Hartford and New Haven to help resolve contract collection cases.  More accurately, it has entered the world of Online Dispute Resolution (“ODR”).  ODR started in the mid-1990s to primarily address e-commerce disputes.  Its potential universality has gained popularity ever since. It is viewed as an inexpensive, user friendly methodology to resolve mostly contract disputes.  Sponsors of an ODR platform, such as the Connecticut Judicial Branch, have latched onto the process and conformed it to the identified needs.

It would be erroneous to consider the new Connecticut ODR strictly as an online mediation service.  It is that and more.  It is a combined mediation and arbitration process.  It contemplates a three-step process:

Step One:  Agreement by all parties to participate

Step Two:  Submission by all parties of claims, defenses and documentary evidence to support these positions

Step Three:  Resolution by the parties facilitated by a designated court mediator; however, if a resolution of the dispute cannot be reached, a different judicial authority will take the written submissions along with any evidence submitted during the mediation process and decide the case

The Judicial Branch has taken a bold step in increasing access to the courts for those with disputes that might not warrant the time and expenses of a formal lawsuit.  The branch has also displayed an understanding of the “med-arb” process where a matter can start as a mediation and conclude with a third party making the decision because the parties were unable to resolve the dispute.  Normally the “med-arb” process raises difficult ethical concerns when the same third party who attempts to mediate a dispute is tasked with being the final decision maker.  The Branch has eliminated these concerns by designating different judicial resources when providing mediation services as opposed to adjudicative services.

For more information, go to the State of Connecticut Judicial website, www.jud.ct.gov , and forms JD-CV-165 (New 12-18), JD-CV-166 (New 12-18), JD-167 (New 12-18), JD-CV-168 (New 12-18) and JD-CV-169 (New 12-18).

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Photo of Jay H. Sandak Jay H. Sandak

Jay H. Sandak has practiced in Connecticut for more than forty years. Jay currently has a full-time Alternate Dispute Resolution practice with an emphasis on mediation.  Jay’s trial skills form a solid foundation for him when he serves as a private Mediator and Arbitrator.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Civil Trial Mediators, a member of the Association of Attorney Mediators, the American Arbitration Association Panel of Neutrals and National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals.  He has and continues to serve as a Special Master for the U.S. Federal District Court of Connecticut and the Connecticut Superior Court negotiating settlements where he has served for almost twenty years.  Jay has conducted over 200 mediations covering business relationships, both medical and legal professional liability and catastrophic personal injury claims involving death and severe disabilities.  In addition Jay has arbitrated numerous civil disputes including a soft-ware licensing case with multi-million dollar claims, a municipal liability dispute and partnership dissolution disputes.

As a result of Jay’s ongoing mediation training around the country both as a student and as a teacher, he is often called upon to facilitate a resolution of extremely difficult and complex disputes.  Continuous training in the practice of mediation is what sets Jay apart as a skilled mediator who can service clients who are looking for a non-litigation strategy for ending disputes