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U.S. Department of the Interior - Office of Policy, Management and Budget
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Overview Presentation

(Taken from a PowerPoint Presentation)

Early Case Assessment

A pre-determined, systematic, and uniform process used to evaluate claims and ensure appropriate, efficient, and cost effective dispute resolution.

Early Case Assessment Program Benefits

  • Improved internal and external relationships
  • Improved communication between client agencies, the solicitor's offices, the DOI offices and the DOJ
  • Improved ability to recognize and identify dispute/claim patterns
  • Better decision-making processes when faced with similar issues in future disputes
  • Appropriate evaluation of suitability of cases for ADR or litigation
  • Consistent approaches to matter types
  • Effective identification and evaluation of legal/litigation trends
  • Decreased discovery needs
  • Reduced "claim-through-resolution" cycle time
  • Increased structural and operating efficiencies
  • Reduction in caseload
  • Increase in ability to develop creative solutions that satisfy more needs
  • Confidentiality maintained
  • Possible avoidance of negative publicity
  • Less management time associated with disputes

DOI Departmental Goals

"Because conflicts and disputes can interfere with the accomplishment of our missions, a successful executive should deal with such situations effectively and efficiently, using a wide range of conflict management tools to enhance consultation, cooperation and communications."
Excerpt from Secretary Gail Norton's Memorandum regarding SES Performance Agreements - April 5, 2001

Goal of the Early Case Assessment Pilot Program

To provide client agencies, solicitor's office and, when necessary, the DOJ, with the key factual, legal and "next step" information to enable them to make informed decisions regarding disputes, claims and litigation in order to reduce volume and cycle time and to achieve successful resolutions.

Goals and Objectives

  • Facilitate dispute prevention, identification and earlier resolution
  • Create a process where ADR is routinely applied
  • Maximize efficient use of all resources
  • Enhance control over decision-making for solicitors and client agencies
  • Expand role and capability of solicitor to be dispute resolution specialist
  • Provide opportunities for clients to use ADR to resolve disputes quickly, fairly, and efficiently
  • Resolve conflict in a manner that satisfies as many parties as possible
  • Reduce case load and corresponding workload
Project Status
  • January 2001: Needs Assessment Initiated
  • February 2001: Needs Assessment Completed / Report and Recommendations Submitted for Consideration
  • March/April 2001: Report and Recommendations Reviewed by DOI, Washington and Atlanta Regional Solicitor's Office
  • May 2001: Atlanta Regional Solicitor's Office Begins Implementation of Early Case Assessment Pilot Program

ECA Creates Opportunities for Cooperation, Consultation and Communication

ECA Process Facilitates:

  • Coordination of activities of multiple parties
  • Inter-agency cooperation
  • Increased communication between groups and agencies
  • Identification of all stakeholders and interests affected by dispute
  • More efficient use of resources

Bringing Departmental Goals to the ECA Program Implementation

"Consultation, cooperation and communication between the Atlanta Regional Solicitor's Office, its Clients, the DOJ, and Washington DOI Representatives is essential for successful implementation of the Early Case Assessment Program."

Implementation of ECA Pilot Program

ECA Pilot Team must focus on:

  • Dispute Identification
  • Analysis
  • Resolution
  • Flexibility and Communication
DOI Early Case Assessment Pilot Program Process Map

Implementation: Dispute Identification

Matters Referred to the Pilot Program

  • Contracts
  • Endangered Species Act Civil Penalty
  • Habitat Conservation Plans
  • Natural Resources Damages
  • Land Use Issues
  • Torts
  • Any other matters deemed appropriate by the Regional Solicitor's Office

Data Elements: Dispute Analysis

  • Matter-specific early abbreviated factual review
  • Matter-specific early abbreviated legal analysis
  • Matter-specific early abbreviated damages assessment
  • Review of relevant Department historical experience
  • Review of general historical experience
  • External and internal economic analysis, including time valuation of personnel
  • Analysis of non-economic risks/benefits, including policy considerations
  • Other relevant matter-specific or general information
  • Recommendation for resolution strategy, which may include dispute resolution selection screens
  • Early Warning System Insight

Administration and Follow-Through

The ECA Program Administrator:

  • Initiates ECA for each matter
  • Facilitates ECA process from start to finish
  • Ensures "decision makers' package" is compiled
  • Coordinates early resolution efforts
  • Tracks evaluations and prepares reports
  • Coordinates continued communication
  • Acts as a Program contact
  • Coordinates analysis, measurement and improvement of the program

Conducting the Assessment

1. Expedited Factual Investigation

  • Development of standardized checklist for items needed for the expedited investigation
  • Gather information
  • Preparation of Fact Summary by Solicitor

2. Abbreviated Legal Analysis

  • Review controlling law including:
    • Elements required to state a claim
    • Controlling time guidelines
    • Relevant statutes, regulations and policies
    • Affirmative defenses that may be dispositive
    • Unique requirements due to jurisdiction
    • Factual issues that are relevant but unascertained
    • Other legal issues necessary to prepare a legal recommendation for this matter

3. Abbreviated Damages Analysis

  • Risk assessment of each claim
  • Prioritize issues within each matter
  • Narrow scope of claims
  • Determine whether an expert will be required

4. Review Relevant Department History

  • Coordinate with client agency to review prior relevant disputes
  • Predict potential scenarios
  • Network with other regional solicitor offices regarding relevant disputes

5. Review General History

  • Verdict outcomes
  • Damage awards
  • Success of similar claims
  • Length of litigation process
  • Settlements or resolutions
  • Other relevant public records or other information

6. Conduct External and Internal Economic Analysis

  • External fees, expenses, costs
    • Outside counsel
    • Other litigation costs
  • Internal fees, expenses and costs
    • Internal Solicitor's time
    • Client agency professional and witness time

7. Identification and Analysis of Non-economic risks/benefits, including:

  • Policy Considerations
  • Importance of establishing precedent
  • Effect on internal and external relationships
  • Client satisfaction/customer service
  • Department's reputation
  • Public relations (satisfying stakeholders)
  • Employee morale
  • Confidentiality
  • Dispute cycle time
  • Increase/decrease in volume of future disputes

8. Consideration of other relevant matter-specific or general information:

For example, historical information about public interest groups, such as:

  • Organization's stated positions and interests
  • Prior involvement, issues or disputes and their outcome

9. Recommendation for Resolution Strategy

  • Negotiation and settlement guidance
  • Early resolution through ADR processes
  • Use of resolution/settlement counsel
  • Litigation strategy

10. "Early Warning System" Insight

  • Summarize lessons learned
  • Recommend corrective action

Early Case Assessment Report

  • Summarize the above data elements
  • Assessment of the goals and objectives for all parties to the dispute
  • Identification of the range of monetary settlement that would be a good result
  • Identification of any non-monetary solutions with potential to resolve the dispute
  • Preliminary dispute management plan
  • Preliminary case management plan

Program Tracking

  • Analyze program effectiveness
  • Develop value measurements
  • Identify business and legal trends to help DOI become more proactive in its approach to conflict
  • Ability to demonstrate tangible and intangible benefits of the Program
  • Easily identify Program "hot spots" and quickly create improvements

Next Steps

May - June 2001: Preparation of Program Documentation

June - July 2001: Development of Training and Communication Material

July - Aug. 2001: Development and Implementation of Program Analysis, Measurement and Improvement Protocol