Court Mediation Program Being Scaled Up to Improve Access to Justice in Mexico

September 30, 2016
Mexico City skyline

Mexico City downtown skyline (Frontpage | Shutterstock.com)

Like many courts in rapidly developing countries, the Mexico City Labor Court faces a large backlog of cases waiting to be reviewed by judges. More than 80,000 people in Mexico City are waiting for their labor cases to be resolved—equivalent to a backlog of almost four years.

The Mexico City Labor Court is collaborating with J-PAL affiliated professors, through support from J-PAL’s Government Partnership Initiative (GPI), to scale up results from an evaluation of a court mediation program designed to improve citizens’ access to justice.

This randomized evaluation, funded by an earlier grant from GPI and conducted by J-PAL affiliate Enrique Seira (Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México) along with Joyce Sadka (Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México) and Christopher Woodruff (University of Oxford), found evidence suggesting that informing people of the outcomes of court cases similar to their own increased use of mediation and settlement, leading to faster results and, over time, reductions in the court’s backlog.

To better inform workers, the research team developed a “case calculator” to predict the likelihood of winning, the amount won, and the expected duration of each court case. For individuals who were provided with the results of the calculator on the day their hearing was scheduled, settlement rates increased by 4.5 percentage points—a 92 percent jump. Results were even stronger for individuals who were approached prior to their hearing date. Based on this evidence, the Mexico City Labor Court is developing plans to scale up the case calculator information program in all twenty of its sub-courts. The new GPI grant enables the court to leverage technical assistance from Professor Seira, his co-researchers, and J-PAL staff in Mexico in the first phase of scale-up, targeting five of the twenty sub-courts.

This project represents an important step forward for long-term institutionalization of evidence-informed decision-making in Mexico’s government. Learn more about the Government Partnership Initiative and read about GPI’s other ongoing projects at povertyactionlab.org/GPI.