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Client: Yolo Superior Court

The Challenge: The court found that the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) had declined to less than 10% of eligible cases, case management conference continuances were common and nearly half of the pending caseload was older than time standards. The court wanted to augment its ADR program by developing and promoting civil mediation as an alternative to:

  • Encourage ADR in more cases;
  • Save time and money for litigants and the courts by reducing the number of court events and increasing early resolution or narrowing of issues;
  • Reduce the total time to disposition;
  • Increase attorney and litigant satisfaction with adjudication process by providing more control and flexibility in choosing an ADR path and reducing the level of acrimony between parties; and
  • Enhance educational opportunities for local attorneys and non-attorney mediators.

Our Approach:

We assessed community needs by surveying local attorney about their experience in and recommendations for civil mediation, examining mediation programs in other courts, and considering issues such as:

  • Whether mediation should be available in all civil case types
  • Whether participation should be voluntary or mandatory
  • Whether the parties or the court should pay the mediators
  • The ideal qualifications of mediators
  • Who should select the mediator for an individual case
  • How mediation should be integrated with case management, including when mediation should take place and whether court hearings should be suspended pending the outcome of mediation
  • How the mediation program should be evaluated

We also evaluated other courtís ADR public information materials and provided suggestions for enhancing the Yolo Superior Courtís materials.

The Results

  • Question and answer guide for the bench to address common questions in ADR programs.
  • Design of the civil mediation program, including a flowchart clarifying how civil mediation ties to case management.
  • Materials for use by mediators. 
  • Reports to the AOC on the program design and use of grant funds.
  • Web content that promotes use of ADR by the general public and attorneys.

Consultants: Kate Harrison and Phyllis Smith

If you'd like to know how you can achieve these types of results in your agency, please visit our website at www.kateharrisonconsulting.com or call Kate at (510) 524-2154. For more information about this project, please click here to request the grant report and process flow chart.

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