Monday, September 01, 2014

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Programs

Quick links to most commonly accessed information are available immediately below:

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is the general term applied to a wide variety of dispute resolution processes which are alternatives to lawsuits. Types of ADR processes include: arbitration, mediation, settlement conferences, private judging, neutral evaluation, mini-trials, negotiation and/or hybrids of these processes.

Recognizing that many civil disputes can be resolved without the time and expense of traditional civil litigation, the Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento (Sacramento County Superior Court), strongly encourages parties in civil cases to explore and pursue the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution. All ADR processes offer a partial or complete alternative to traditional court litigation for resolving disputes. At the present time, the Sacramento County Superior Court offers Mediation and Arbitration.

Arbitration

An Arbitrator hears evidence presented by the parties, makes legal rulings, determines facts and makes an Arbitration award. Arbitration awards may be entered as judgments in accordance with the agreement of the parties or where there is no agreement, in accordance with California statutes. Arbitration can be binding if the parties so agree in writing. If there is no such agreement, either party can reject the Arbitration award and request a trial.

Mediation

Mediation is a voluntary, informal, and confidential process in which the Mediator - a neutral third party - facilitates settlement negotiations. The Mediator improves communication between the parties, assists in clarifying facts, identifying legal issues, explores options to arrive at a mutually acceptable resolution of the dispute.

What are the advantages of using ADR?

ADR can have a number of advantages over traditional court litigation.

  • ADR can save time. Even in a complex case, a dispute can be resolved through ADR in a matter of months or weeks while a lawsuit can take years.
  • ADR can save money. By producing earlier settlements, ADR can save parties and courts money that might otherwise be spent on litigation costs (attorney's fees and court expenses.)
  • ADR provides more participation. Parties have more opportunity with ADR to express their own interests and concerns, while litigation focuses exclusively on the parties' legal rights and responsibilities.
  • ADR provides more control and flexibility. Parties can choose the ADR process most appropriate for their particular situation and that will best serve their particular needs.
  • ADR can reduce stress and provide greater satisfaction. ADR encourages cooperation and communication, while discouraging the adversarial atmosphere found in litigation. Surveys of disputants who have gone through ADR have found that satisfaction with ADR is generally high, especially among those with extensive ADR experience.

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.

Pursuant to Local Rule, 2.46(C), a copy of the Program Case Notice for Unlimited shall be served with the summons and complaint on any Unlimited Civil Cases.

What are My Options?

At the present time, the Sacramento County Superior Court offers Mediation and Arbitration.

Arbitration

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. 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.

Guidelines for Arbitration in Unlimited Civil Cases

  • Plaintiff may elect, the parties may stipulate, or the judge may order the case to arbitration. Parties will be asked to select an arbitrator and three alternate arbitrators from the court's Arbitrator Panel. (Please see the Arbitrator Selection Process section below.) The court will send a Notice of Appointment and an appropriate Order to Arbitration to all parties.
  • Arbitrations are conducted pursuant to California Rules of Court, rules 3.810 through 3.830, - external link and Local Rules Chapter 2, Part 5. Unless otherwise stipulated, an Award of Arbitrator is not binding upon the parties provided that they file a timely Request for Trial De Novo pursuant to California rules of Court, rule 3.826. Upon the filing of a timely Request for Trial De Novo, the case will proceed to a Trial Setting Conference. If no timely Request for Trial De Novo is filed, judgment based upon the Award of Arbitrator will be entered pursuant to California Rules of Court, rule 3.827.

Guidelines for Arbitration in Limited Civil Cases

Arbitration may occur in a limited civil case under the following circumstances:

  • When plaintiff elects to refer the case to judicial arbitration. A written election by the plaintiff to submit an action or proceeding to arbitration shall be filed using the Court's local form, Limited Civil Case Status Memorandum CV\E-202).

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 read the Arbitrator Selection Process.

Mediation

Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process in which the Mediator - a neutral third party - facilitates settlement negotiations. The Mediator improves communication between the parties, helps parties clarify facts, identifies potential legal issues, explores options and attempts to 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. 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.

Guidelines for Mediation in Unlimited Civil Cases

  • If the parties do not stipulate to mediation prior to their Case Management Conference (CMC), they may indicate their willingness to stipulate to mediation at the CMC. In that event, parties must submit a Stipulation and Order to Mediation - Unlimited Civil Cases (CV\E-MED-179) within 14 calendar days after their CMC. Once the stipulation has been approved by the Court, the case will be ordered to the Trial Setting Process and a Notice of Appointment of Court Neutral will be issued and mailed to all parties.
  • A Mediation Statement must be filed with the Case Management Statement.

Guidelines for Mediation in Limited Civil Cases

  • Parties may select and conduct voluntary private mediation without notification to the Court.
  • Parties may stipulate to court mediation by filing a Stipulation and order to Arbitration/Mediation - Limited Civil Cases CV/E-203) at any time after the filing of the Limited Civil Case Status Memorandum CV\E-202). A Stipulation and Order to Arbitration/Mediation - Limited Civil Cases MUST be filed concurrently or subsequent to a Limited Civil Case Status Memorandum. Once the stipulation has been approved by the Court, the case will be ordered to the Trial Setting Process and a Notice of Appointment of Court Neutral will be issued and mailed to all parties.

Sometimes mediation does not result in an agreement or resolution. In these cases, the parties shall adhere to the Trial Setting Process. If the case returns to court, the mediator cannot be called to testify or produce notes or records of the mediation.