Conciliation Courts, Domestic

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CONCILIATION COURTS, DOMESTIC. Conciliation, or mediation, is an informal process where by a third person tries to help the parties to a controversy reach an agreement to settle their dispute. Conciliation should not to be confused with arbitration, which is the process where by the parties agree to refer the matter to a third party and abide by its decision. Just prior to the Civil War, six states added provisions to their constitutions authorizing their legislatures to establish conciliation tribunals.

However, no use of this power was made until the second decade of the twentieth century when, in an effort to provide a mechanism allowing small businessmen and laborers to go to court to resolve matters involving small amounts of money, states and cities instituted several judicial reforms, including the creation of conciliation courts. The emergence of these courts, also known as small claims courts or small debtors' courts, is linked to the rise of a system of municipal courts with wide powers over their own organization and procedure. In 1913, the Cleveland Municipal Court became the first court to make conciliation an important part of its procedure. In 1921, North Dakota adopted the first statewide conciliation act. By 1923, five states and twelve cities had small claims systems.

In the early 2000s, small claims courts continued to provide an informal and expeditious process for resolving disputes involving small amounts of money. In addition, the conciliation process was used by parties in a wide variety of types of disputes, especially those involving domestic and labor matters.


Spurrier, Robert L., Jr. Inexpensive Justice: Self-Representation in the Small Claims Court. Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1980.

Yngvesson, Barbara Y., and Patricia H. Hennessey. "Small Claims, Complex Disputes: A Review of the Small Claims Literature." Law and Society Review 9 (1975):219–274.

Francis R.Aumann/c. p.

See alsoArbitration ; Judiciary .