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Thursday, October 26, 2006


Andrew Engel

In the counties in which I practiced most, the Courts maintain its own full-time (and a couple more part-time), fully trained mediators. The judge will refer many cases to mediation early in the process, often before significant discovery has occurred. I have had very good results in mediations conducted in these Courts. It would permit me to resolve the case quickly and minimize my fees. That made everyone (especially the defendant) feel better about settling.

Also, one local Court has a mandatory arbitration process for most smaller claims (under $50,000). The Court can order any case (with a few exceptions) to arbitration. The arbitration is held reasonably early in the process. After an award is made, either party may appeal, within 30 days, from the award. If an appeal is taken, the case is placed back on the courts docket and matter proceeds to trial. (I think there may be a penalty of some kind if the court ordered award was not at least a certain percent higher than the arbitration awward. This was to discourage taking marginal cases to trial.)

In this process, the arbitrators are all local attorney who have been trained. Many of them have several years of experience. Most view serving on arbitrations panels as a duty to court and the public. Each arbitrator gets paid between $150.00 and 400.00 depending on the length of the arbitraion. But it is NOT private arbitration.

The courts instituted these rules as docket-clearing tools. But they seem to work well for the parties.

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