The Superior Court of California, County of Alameda strongly encourages the parties to use some form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) before proceeding to trial.
The person who files a civil lawsuit (plaintiff) must include the ADR Information Packet with the complaint when serving the defendant. Cross complainants must serve the ADR Information Packet on any new parties named to the action.
What ADR Options Are Available?
- Court Mediation Program: Mediators do not charge fees for the first two hours of mediation. If parties need more time, they must pay the mediator's regular fees. Some mediators ask for a deposit before mediation starts, which is subject to a refund for unused time.
- Private Mediation: This is mediation where the parties pay the mediator's regular fees and may choose a mediator outside the court's panel.
- Day of Court Mediation Program - Through this program, the court offers free mediation services for small claims, unlawful detainers, and civil harassment cases. The court offers these services in collaboration with volunteer mediators. Parties interested in these services may ask for them the day of their trial or settlement conference. Availability of these services is dependent on volunteer mediators’ availability and participation.
- Judicial Arbitration Program (non-binding): The judge can refer a case or the parties can agree to use judicial arbitration. The parties select an arbitrator from a list provided by the court. If the parties cannot agree on an arbitrator, one will be assigned by the court. There is no fee for the arbitrator. The arbitrator must send the decision (award of the arbitrator) to the court. The parties have the right to reject the award and proceed to trial.
- Private Arbitration (binding and non-binding) occurs when parties involved in a dispute either agree or are contractually obligated. This option takes place outside of the courts and is normally binding meaning the arbitrator's decision is final.
What Are The Advantages Of Using ADR?
- Faster - Litigation can take years to complete but ADR usually takes weeks or months.
- Cheaper - Parties can save on attorneys' fees and litigation costs.
- More control and flexibility - Parties choose the ADR process appropriate for their case.
- Cooperative and less stressful - In mediation, parties cooperate to find a mutually agreeable resolution.
- Preserve Relationships - A mediator can help you effectively communicate your interests and point of view to the other side. This is an important benefit when you want to preserve a relationship.