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|Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)|
Optional ways of settling disputes between parties other than by a formal trial.
The most common forms of ADR are:
Negotiation - The process in which disputing parties and their attorneys discuss and compromise their differences.
Settlement Conference - Any meeting of disputing parties and their attorneys in which they discuss possible settlement of the issues. It may be Voluntary if agreed by the parties (see "Mediation" below), or Mandatory if ordered by the court. Many courts mandate a pre-trial settlement conference in which a judge presides but does not make a final decision on the issues.
Mediation - An informal process in which the disputing parties choose one neutral mediator to conduct a meeting and help them resolve their disputes by discussing, negotiating, and reaching a settlement acceptable to all of them. Mediation can be either Voluntary if agreed by the parties, or Mandatory if ordered by the court. The mediator does not make a final decision on the issues.
Arbitration - A formal procedure in which the disputing parties choose one or three neutral arbitrators to conduct a hearing, listen to the positions of the parties, evaluate evidence and testimony, and then make a decision on the issues. Arbitration can be either Binding or Non-Binding on the parties, as they agree beforehand.
Early Neutral Evaluation - An informal procedure that compels the disputing parties to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their positions early in a dispute. The early neutral evaluator is an attorney with expertise in the issues involved, who critiques and responds candidly to the merits of the positions of the parties, and makes specific recommendations about the terms of the settlement agreement, thereby providing a "reality check" for all parties. The neutral evaluator does not make a final decision on the issues.
Mini-trial - A flexible procedure in which the disputing parties agree to the format of an abbreviated trial. The rules of evidence are relaxed and witnesses are not usually called. A neutral advisor monitors the proceedings in which the parties present their cases to a judge, magistrate, or jury who then give an advisory opinion on the probable outcome of the case. Mini-trials provide a realistic preview of how the parties might fair at trial. The judge, magistrate, or jury does not make a final decision on the issues.