Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is an Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) settlement conference?
The ODR settlement conference is a chance to resolve your small claims dispute in a quick, simple, and informal way. In a conversation by videoconference, or by phone, both parties will work with a Magistrate to settle the dispute.
You are required to participate in the settlement conference but you are not required to reach an agreement. You may be able to reach an agreement without a trial that may include more favorable payment terms, the avoidance of credit harm, possible wage garnishment or other collections procedures. Settlement conferences are conducted remotely by videoconference or phone so you do not need to come to the courthouse.
2. Who conducts the settlement conference?
Small claims ODR settlement conferences are conducted by Mediation Specialists, who are Judicial Branch employees trained in mediation and small claims law. Mediation Specialists will conduct small claims remote settlement conferences via video conference using Microsoft Teams, or telephonically.
3. Can I participate if I don't have access to a computer or smart phone?
Yes. You do not need a computer or smart phone to participate in ODR. Contact the clerk on the notice you received in order to discuss other options for participating remotely, including a room in the courthouse that will allow you to participate using Judicial Branch equipment. Contact the clerk to reserve a room.
4. How do I prepare for the settlement conference?
You should make sure that you have copies of all of the evidence you want to show in the settlement conference and at trial if the case does not settle. You should also decide how you are going to participate remotely, and make certain that you have any equipment or information that you need to participate, such as a telephone or computer with internet access. The Judicial Branch has created a Quick Reference Guide for Remote Proceedings to help parties prepare for remote court events held by videoconference or phone.
5. What if we cannot reach an agreement in the settlement conference?
You are not required to reach an agreement in the settlement conference and not all cases can be settled. If you do not reach an agreement, your case will proceed to trial. A different Magistrate will conduct the trial.