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Background and History:

The beginning of the Early Case Management (ECM) and Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) program in southern Minnesota began with the launch of the original pilot program in the Third/Fifth Judicial Districts Lakescene

Origins of Early Neutral Evaluation can be traced to the late Chief Judge Robert Peckham in Northern California and his desire to lower the cost of litigations to parties along with the vision of Magistrate Judge Wayne Brazil, who developed and implemented the Early Neutral Evaluation program in Northern California in the early 1980’s. 

Judge Peckham was deeply concerned that the growing cost of even relatively routine civil litigation in court was becoming an unacceptable burden on the average litigant. The court was failing in its mandated mission to "secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action." He charged a task force composed of experienced lawyers and judges to study the problem, and specifically asked one committee to develop new procedures to help resolve it. After studying the problem, the committee concluded that an early, candid and objective case evaluation would enable the parties and counsel to achieve efficiency in resolving disputes. This led to the idea of an "Early Neutral Evaluation" of the case. At the recommendation of this committee, the judges of Northern District of California first adopted an experimental ENE program in 1985. From its beginning ENE was favored and was beneficial to efficient resolution.



Confilct Resolutions Book Early Case Management and Early Neutral Evaluation process is in keeping with a judicial branch strategic goal of resolving family law cases more quickly, and began in Minnesota in 2001. In 2005, Hennepin County hosted a two-day conference.  Retired Chief Justice Sandy Keith and Monica Suess were among the 60 some individuals attending this conference on Early Case Management and Early Neutral Evaluation

In June of 2005, Justice Keith and Monica Suess, approached the local bench and bar stirring interest in the ECM/ENE project.  By the end of 2006, interest grew rapidly. Ms Suess, who at that time was serving as the volunteer project coordinator, along with a local third district judge, developed procedures, process, court orders, training, reference manual, videos and all components related to the pilot program. Ms Suess was then hired as a half time ENE Coordinator for the Fifth and Third Judicial Districts.  In 2007, a two year State Justice Institute (SJI) State Court grant was received to fund, support and implement the ECM/ENE pilot program throughout the Third and Fifth Judicial Districts, along with possible statewide expansion.  Ms. Suess became the full time ECM/ENE Program Coordinator. She continued as the fulltime Coordinator through 2009 at which time the position was eliminated of a lack of funding.  The loss of funding was damaging to district-wide coordination and usage of the process.


After December 2009, efforts continued to find a ways to offer this valuable and much needed service as a standalone project.  The knowledge and experience gained from the pilot program aided in the development of the Southeastern Minnesota Family Support Center, Inc.

New Moon

Early Neutral Evaluation has been studied extensively since its beginning in 1985 in Northern California District. Southeastern Minnesota Family Support Center, Inc. offers this extremely beneficial and valuable service while promoting enhancements and adaptations unique to southeastern Minnesota and surrounding areas.
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