Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Programs
Quick links to most commonly accessed information are available immediately below:
Going to court, commonly called litigation, may decide the dispute but the process can be time consuming, expensive, and emotionally draining. Fees may escalate well beyond the original estimate, and the time it takes to reach a decision in our busy courts can be months or even years. Therefore, exploring options other than litigation can be a worthwhile pursuit.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is the term used to describe all the other options available for settling a dispute, which once was required to be settled in court. ADR processes such as arbitration and mediation are less formal than court proceedings and provide opportunities for litigants to reach an agreement using a problem-solving approach rather than the more adversarial approach of litigation.
For parties to the dispute, these options:
- are highly cost effective;
- take less time to resolve;
- foster future positive relationships;
- are rated as highly satisfactory;
- provide more control over the outcome.
For attorneys, benefits in addition to those mentioned above include:
- shorter time for disposition;
- quicker results for clients;
- ability to represent or advise more clients;
- fewer fee disputes;
- greater client satisfaction.
ADR Information Package
Pursuant to California Rules of Court, rule 3.221 - external link, in all general civil cases, the plaintiff must serve a copy of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) information package on each defendant together with the complaint. The ADR information package includes: ADR Information Package and Stipulation and Order to Mediation (CV\E-MED-179). A Stipulation to Arbitration may be filed on pleading paper.
Additional information that is helpful after initiating a case:
What are My Options?
Judicial arbitration is a program under which cases are assigned to an attorney, sitting as an impartial Arbitrator, to conduct an informal mini-trial. Arbitrators are selected from a panel maintained by the Court. At Case Management Conference, the judge will determine whether the case is suitable for arbitration. All court ordered arbitration is provided on a pro-bono basis by the assigned Arbitrator.
In arbitration, each side in the dispute presents its case, including evidence, to the Arbitrator. The Arbitrator issues a decision called an Award of Arbitrator based on the evidence just as a judge would, within a time frame set by the Court. Although evidence is presented, arbitration is a less formal process than litigation.
Arbitration may be binding or non-binding depending on what the parties agree to before beginning the process. Non-binding arbitration means that the participants in the case are not required to accept the Arbitrator's award and they may request a trial de novo which returns the case to the Court's calendar as if arbitration had not occurred.
It is important for parties to understand that, in agreeing to binding arbitration or by not requesting a trial de novo, they are waiving their right to a trial and are accepting the Arbitrator's award as a final decision. Although it may not be binding, arbitration assists parties in determining the value of their case prior to trial.
Absent a waiver by the parties, a case may not be referred to arbitration prior to 210 days after the filing of the complaint. Failure to object to an earlier referral to arbitration at or before the Case Management Conference shall be deemed a waiver of this rule. If a case is referred to arbitration, the hearing must be completed within 60 days, unless the Court orders otherwise. The Court has a form in which the parties may, by mutual stipulation, petition ex parte for an extension of time to complete arbitration.
A case referred to arbitration may be withdrawn from the process prior to the arbitration session, but only by Court order.
Arbitrator Selection Process
For instructions on how to select an Arbitrator, please follow the Arbitrator Selection link.
Mediation is a voluntary, information, confidential process in which the Mediator, a neutral third party, facilitates settlement negotiations. The Mediator improves communication by and among the parties, helps parties clarify fact, identify legal issues, explore options and arrive at a mutually acceptable resolution of the dispute. Unlike an arbitrator, the mediator makes no decision or findings about the facts of the case and makes no award. The rules of evidence and formal court procedures do not apply to mediation.
All parties to the dispute may voluntarily agree to submit the case to a neutral Mediator, either through a court-appointment or through a private arrangement. A Stipulation and Order to Mediation form may be filed with the Court at any time up to 15 calendar days prior to the Case Management Conference. The parties may choose either of the following mediation choices:
- Private Mediation - Parties to a civil action may agree to mediate their dispute with a Mediator of their choice without court assistance. The cost of mediation must be borne by the parties equally unless the parties agree otherwise. Parties will be charged an amount as set by the Mediator (refer to Mediation Panel List for current rates).
- Court Mediation - Upon stipulation of the parties, a Mediator and alternate Mediator will be selected from the court-approved list of Mediators (Mediator Panel List). The Court will confirm the selected Mediator and notice parties by mail. Mediators on the court's approved list have agreed to provide up to three (3) hours of pro-bono mediation. In the event the Mediation extends beyond 3 hours and parties determine it would be beneficial to continue the Mediation process, the parties will independently be responsible for compensating the Mediator in an amount set by the Mediator.
The Mediator is responsible for contacting the parties to confirm a date, time, and place for Mediation.
Sometimes mediation does not result in an agreement or resolution. In these cases, the parties have the right to return to court for a litigated decision. If the case returns to court, the Mediator cannot be called to testify or produce notes or records of the mediation.
For more details on the Court's Arbitration and Mediation programs, refer to Chapter 2 - Part Five of the Local Rules.