Stay up to date on everything mediation!

Subscribe to our free newsletter,
"This Week in Mediation"

Sign Up Now

Already subscribed No subscription today
<xTITLE>ODR and the Courts</xTITLE>

ODR and the Courts

by Karim Benyekhlef, Nicolas Vermeys
May 2013

This chapter is from "Online Dispute Resolution Theory and Practice," Mohamed Abdel Wahab, Ethan Katsh & Daniel Rainey ( Eds.), published, sold and distributed by Eleven International Publishing. The Hague, Netherlands at:

Ever since online dispute resolution (ODR) processes first arose in the mid-1990s, their impact on the state’s already eroded monopoly on resolving conflicts has been the subject of much debate. This is not to say that the rise of ODR signified the first instance in which individuals chose to settle matters outside of the courtroom –alternative means of settling disputes have been around for ages – but ODR offers a technological shift to dispute resolution, not merely a procedural one. Online environments have created new and unique ways (notably through the use of the so-called fourth party) of settling disputes in a swift, asynchronous (although synchronous solutions are also available), and cost effective manner. Accordingly, ODR can be seen as both a competing and complementary tool to traditional in-court schemes and state-run judicial systems.

But the true essence and scope of the relationship between ODR processes and the courts hinge on a series of criteria, the most prevalent of these being the definition one chooses to adopt to circumscribe the very notion of online dispute resolution.

If ODR is interpreted broadly as being the use of online environments to facilitate communications and dispute resolution, then it could be argued that ODR has seeped into the Court process through the use of electronic filing and electronic court management systems. However, if we accept the more conventional definition of ODR as being a process that “utilizes the Internet as a more efficient medium for parties to resolve their disputes through a variety of ADR methods”, and that “brings disputing parties together ‘online’ to participate in a dialogue about resolving their dispute”, then ODR has yet to make its way into the court system in any significant manner.

Of course, it could be argued that this goes without saying since, according to some, ODR is merely an online transposition of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) systems and processes, which, as their name clearly states, serve as an alternative to the Court system. Therefore, to talk about Court sanctioned ODR would be akin to stating that the courts could serve as an alternative to themselves, which is somewhat nonsensical. That is not to say that the state cannot incorporate ODR processes and practices in to its arsenal of judicial services, but rather that, according to this approach, the notion of “court-run ODR” seems incongruous.

Read the entire article by clicking on the attachment below.


vermeys_benyekhlef.pdf ODR in the Courts  (vermeys_benyekhlef.pdf)


Karim Benyekhlef has been a professor in the Faculty of Law of the Université de Montréal since 1989, and since 1990 he has been seconded to the Centre de recherche en droit public, of which he has been the Director since 2006. A member of the Quebec Bar since 1985, he practiced in the federal Department of Justice from 1986 to 1989. His areas of teaching and research are information technology law, constitutional law (human rights and freedoms),international law, and legal theory and history. In 1995, Prof. Benyekhkef founded the electronic law journal Lex Electronica and is also the originator of one of the first on-line dispute resolution projects (the Cyber Tribunal project, 1996-1999, eResolution, 1999-2001, and ECODIR project, 2000-: He is the director of the Cyberjustice Laboratory.

Nicolas Vermeys

Nicolas W. Vermeys, LL.B. (Université de Montréal), LL.M. (Université de Montréal), LL.D.(Université de Montréal), CISSP, is a professor at the Université de Montréal’s Faculté de droit, the co-director of the e-commerce masters’ program offered by the Faculty of Law at the University of Montréal in collaboration with HEC Montréal and the Département d’informatique et de recherche opérationnelle de l’Université de Montréal. He is also the associate director ofthe Cyberjustice Laboratory, and serves as a legal advisor for the law firm of Legault Joly Thiffault. Mr. Vermeys is a certified information system security professional (CISSP) as recognised by (ISC), and is the author of numerous publications relating to the impact of technology on the law. Mr. Vermeys’ research focuses on legal issues pertaining to information security, developments in the field of cyberjustice, and other questions relating to the impact of technological innovations on the law