ADR is a process offered by the court and others to help people resolve their disputes without going to trial. By using ADR you may not have to file a lawsuit, and if you do file a lawsuit, you may be able to avoid a trial. ADR is usually less formal, less expensive, and less time-consuming than a trial and may also give the parties more control over when and how their dispute is resolved.
It is the policy of the San Diego Superior Court to strongly support the use of ADR in all general civil cases. The court has long recognized the value of early case management intervention and the use of alternative dispute resolution options for amenable and eligible cases. The use of ADR will be discussed at all case management conferences. It is the court's expectation that litigants will utilize some form of ADR -- i.e. the court's mediation and arbitration programs or other available private ADR options -- as a mechanism for case settlement before trial.
In mediation, an impartial person called a "mediator", helps the parties try to reach a mutually acceptable resolution of the dispute. The mediator does not decide the dispute but helps the parties communicate so they can try to settle the dispute themselves. Mediation leaves control of the outcome with the parties. More Information.
In arbitration, a neutral person called an "arbitrator", hears arguments and evidence from each side and then decides the outcome of the dispute. Arbitration is less formal than a trial, and the rules of evidence are often relaxed. Arbitration may be either "binding" or "nonbinding." More Information.
Settlement conferences may be either mandatory or voluntary. In both types of settlement conferences, the parties and their attorneys meet with a judge (or a temporary judge) to discuss possible settlement of their dispute. The judge does not make a decision in the case but assists the parties in evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the case and in negotiating a settlement. Mandatory settlement conferences are often held close to the date a case is set for trial. More Information.
An ADR process may be initiated by the parties at any time after all parties have appeared in the case, by filing a Stipulation to Use Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) form (CIV-359).
If the parties do not stipulate to use ADR, ADR will be discussed at the Case Management Conference, which is held approximately 150 after the case is filed. It is the court's expectation that litigants will utilize some form of ADR -- i.e. the court's mediation and arbitration programs or other available private ADR options -- as a mechanism for case settlement before trial. The court may refer by order (on a voluntary basis) cases to judicial arbitration or civil mediation. In certain cases, the court may order parties to judicial arbitration or a settlement conference.
The time for an ADR process varies depending upon the complexity of the case. Most cases require only one meeting to come to a resolution, but some cases may require additional sessions. All of the ADR processes must be completed by a date set by the judge, usually within 90-120 days of the date on which the judge referred the case to an ADR process.
If a settlement occurs prior to a scheduled ADR session, counsel for the parties, or the parties, should immediately notify the court as well as the mediator, arbitrator or settlement judge.