Court–Ordered Alternative Dispute Resolution

In recent times, the California courts continue to face financial crisis. The strain on the statewide court system comes from increases in lawsuit filings, coupled with the rise in litigation costs, leads to long delays before parties are able to realize resolution of their cases. As a result, civil litigants and courts themselves are increasingly turning towards alternative dispute resolution ("ADR"), as a means to seek faster and less expensive results in legal disputes. Indeed, in certain circumstances, courts will order parties to seek resolution through various ADR methods. At the Law Offices of Salar Atrizadeh, an attorney with years of experience in the different types of ADR procedures, can provide you with the knowledge that will help guide your case to resolution.

The California Legislature through California Business & Professions Code §§ 465(d)-(e) has established that California courts should encourage increased legal resolution through the various ADR methods. The Judicial Council has also adopted rules and standards to promote ADR throughout litigation in courts. Accordingly, under California Rules of Court, Rule 3.221(a) each court must make packets available to the plaintiff describing ADR's advantages and disadvantages. These packets provide information for claimants about available ADR programs and the forms necessary to apply to these programs.

Under California Rules of Court, Rule 3.721, parties who wish to participate in ADR must "meet and confer" with the opposing party thirty (30) days before the Case Management Conference. The courts set Case Management Conferences so that parties can come before the court to discuss the progress of the case, pending issues, future deadlines, and trial dates. To "meet and confer" parties must discuss-via telephone, in person, or through written correspondence-the options and preferences to settle the case (e.g., mediation, arbitration).

There are various forms of court-sponsored ADR, including, but not limited to, judicial arbitration, court-ordered, or voluntary mediation, mandatory settlement conferences, and neutral evaluation. The effectiveness of each of these options will be based on the circumstances surrounding each case. Accordingly, to ensure the most efficient and helpful ADR method, it is important to seek the assistance of an attorney who is skilled in these procedures, and can select the most appropriate option for your case.

Court-ordered ADR is beneficial because the parties do not have the added burden of deciding and arranging the procedures for ADR. Additionally, court-ordered ADR is often available without any additional costs. Alternatively, private ADR can include substantial legal fees. Also, unless the parties agree otherwise, court-ordered ADR is not binding, so the parties are able to communicate about their legal issues without the stress of an unfavorable outcome. However, in light of the recent strain on the court systems, court-ordered ADR is an attempt to remove cases quickly from the court systems. As such, the assigned neutral party who manages the ADR procedure may have an added interest in forcing settlement. As such, it is increasingly important to have an attorney who can oversee and protect your individual legal rights and interests.