Alternative Dispute Resolution

The Massachusetts Trial Court offers court-connected ADR as an alternative to litigation in every Trial Court Department. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a generic term used to describe certain processes in which an impartial third person assists parties in settling a case without the need for trial  Learn more

Court-Connected ADR

See SJC Rule 1:18 (Uniform Rules on Dispute Resolution)

Conciliation Services

Conciliation is a court-connected dispute resolution process performed by attorneys generally  in association with a local bar association.   Conciliation is defined under the Uniform Rules of Dispute Resolution (Supreme Judicial Court Rule 1:18) as a process in which a neutral  assists parties in settling a case by clarifying the issues and assessing the strengths and weaknesses of each side of the case.  If the case is not settled, a conciliator explores the steps which remain to prepare the case for trial.   

A conciliator may assume a variety of roles in the conciliation process depending on the case.  For example, a conciliator may help the parties clarify issues in dispute, assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of the parties’ case, provide opinions about the merits and potential outcome of the case, explore settlement, and if no settlement is reached, expedite trial preparation and moves the case toward disposition.

The Uniform Rules on Dispute Resolution set forth qualification standards for all neutrals. To be qualified, a conciliator must be an attorney licensed to practice law in Massachusetts, be in good standing with the Board of Bar Overseers, and have engaged in the practice of law within Massachusetts for at least three years.  

Currently, conciliation programs are approved to provide dispute resolution services in the Probate and Family Court and the District Court Departments.

Housing Specialists (Housing Court)

Housing specialists provide free mediation and dispute intervention services to Housing Court litigants. Housing specialists are trained to assist litigants in identifying areas of dispute and resolving differences.  Housing specialists resolve hundreds of summary process and other landlord-tenant disputes each week.  Learn More

Superior Court Mediation and Discovery Master Services

The Superior Court offers in-house mediation and discovery master services in cases involving self-represented litigants and in other cases at the request of counsel or by order of a judge at no cost to the parties.  The Superior Court’s ADR staff consists of an attorney who conducts mediations and who is available to explain court-conducted mediation services to attorneys and parties.  In addition, retired Superior Court Judge Thayer Fremont-Smith serves pro bono as a mediator and discovery master.  A Superior Court judge interested in referring a case to retired Judge Fremont-Smith must enter an order referring the case to him.

Mediation Services of the Boston Municipal Court

Mediation is when all parties in a lawsuit sit down with a neutral person who helps them discuss the dispute and try to negotiate a settlement or resolution. The Boston Municipal Court Department’s mediation services are available to parties in civil cases in all eight courts of the Boston Municipal Court Department.  Approved programs offer mediation services at no cost.  To access mediation services, please contact the Clerk-Magistrate’s Office of the court where your case is filed.