Court-Connected General Civil ADR Programs: Aiming for Institutionalization, Efficient Resolution, and the Experience of Justice

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State and federal courts in the U.S. have institutionalized various ADR procedures to resolve general civil (non-family) matters, such as personal injury disputes, contract claims, lawsuits arising out of alleged discrimination or violation of civil rights, etc. This chapter reports the results of interviews with the directors of leading court programs regarding their structural choices in offering mediation and non-binding arbitration. In addition, the chapter considers the implications of available empirical research regarding factors that appear to maximize: the use of court-connected civil ADR programs, the achievement of settlements in such programs, and their provision of fair and just processes. Specifically, the chapter provides guidance regarding: reasons for institutionalizing ADR; who should be involved in the design and implementation of a court’s ADR program; the types of ADR that are suitable for general civil cases; how to promote good program management; how to initiate a program; whether participation should be mandatory or voluntary; statutes, rules and forms that may be drafted; education of judges, court staff, attorneys and others; selecting cases for ADR; different referral systems; the timing of referrals to ADR; who should serve as neutrals; appropriate qualifications and training for neutrals; support and evaluation of neutrals; the roles to be played by parties and their attorneys; ethical rules for parties, judges, and neutrals; planning for the assessment of ADR programs’ effectiveness; procedures for hearing and resolving complaints; and funding a court-connected ADR program.

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American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution


Washington, DC


Donna Stienstra & Susan M. Yates

Book Title

ADR Handbook for Judges