Join us as we discuss the Arbitration Division Court with Administrator Delta Hawkins!

Delta Hawkins is the administrator of the Lake County Arbitration Center, which has recently been renamed the Alternative Dispute Resolution Center. The Center provides arbitration as well as other types of dispute resolution such as mediation. The purpose of alternative dispute resolution is to resolve court claims to avoid trials which can be expensive and time-consuming.

Hawkins grew up in McHenry, Illinois. She attended the University of California at Berkeley, majoring in psychology. She received a graduate degree in neuropsychology at the University of Illinois’ Circle Campus. After graduation, Hawkins worked for the State of Illinois in geriatric neuropsych evaluations. After that position was cut, she worked for an Elgin crisis center and took classes to obtain paralegal certification. Additionally, she hosted a cable access television show, “Just Us”, which explored the law. Hawkins then obtained a job with Lake County Arbitration Center and has been there for 18 years.

Lake County divides its civil cases into 3 sections according to the worth of the claim; small claims division (under $10,000.00), arbitration division ($10,000.01 – $50,000.00) and law division (over $50,000.00). It is mandatory that all cases filed in the arbitration division go through the arbitration process at the Alternative Dispute Resolution Center before proceeding to trial. The arbitration hearing is like a mini-trial as the arbitration is limited to 2 hours and witness testimony is not required. A 3-member panel made up of experienced Lake County attorneys decide the arbitration cases.

The purpose of alternative dispute resolution is to resolve cases without going to trial. Of all arbitration cases filed, 70% settle before the hearing. Additionally, 50% of all arbitration cases that do proceed to hearing are settled at the arbitration hearing. Even in the other 50% of cases that do not settle or accept the panel’s award, many still do settle prior to going to trial at the Law Division level as the award or decision made by the arbitration panel is a very informed assessment of a claim’s worth.

In addition to arbitration, the Alternative Dispute Resolution Center also administers the mediation process for small claims (under $10,000.00). Lake County attorneys volunteer their time to act as mediators for small claims litigants. In mediation, the attorney mediator facilitates discussion between the litigants to come to a mutual decision to settle a claim. The benefits of mediation are that each litigant can tell their side of the story, a trial is avoided in most case and the process gets the litigants in dialogue with each other.

There is a great deal of information and assistance for people seeking alternative dispute resolution. There are booklets about arbitration and mediation available online, at the law library and in the courtrooms. Assistance can be found at the law library and through the Alternative Dispute Resolution Center.