The Maryland Lawyer in a Cover Story  

An online alternative for ADR 

Online dispute resolution lets parties come to terms without ever coming into contact 

Monty Ahalt believes that most civil cases can 

be resolved without the parties ever being in 

the same room or even on the same phone 


The retired Prince George’s County 

Circuit Court judge runs , a 

Web site that allows parties to work out their differences 

online with an arbitrator or mediator. He estimates 

that about 70 percent of civil cases can be 

resolved this way, in less time and at a lower cost than 

traditional litigation. 

“That’s a process that takes probably three to four 

years from the time that dispute first started until it’s 

concluded, involving many, many man hours, a lot of 

expense, a lot of time and a lot of repetition, mainly 

paper repetition,” Ahalt said. “In a vast majority of 

those disputes, the results are fairly predictable, but 

the parties don’t realize that.” 

Virtual Courthouse is part of a movement toward 

online dispute resolution, or ODR, of basic alternative 

dispute resolution cases. The trend includes sites like, where a computer, not a person, 

determines the value of the case, and eBay’s in-house 

ODR system. 

Many lawyers and ADR professionals are enthusiastic 

about ODR, but some say its utility is limited. 

Others question whether disputes may be settled fairly 

without the arbitrator or mediator — the “neutral,” in 

Virtual Courthouse parlance — seeing the parties.

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