Court-connected ADR services include any processes in which the parties engage a neutral third party to assist in settling a case or otherwise disposing of a case without a trial. In some forms of ADR, the neutral third party issues a decision. In other types of ADR, the neutral third party helps the parties to reach their own resolution. There is a body of literature suggesting that the use of appropriate dispute resolution methods at an earlier stage in the process may substantially reduce the cost, time, and complexity of the litigation, while promoting greater satisfaction on the part of both litigants and attorneys.
The Massachusetts court system is committed to providing the public with a variety of options for resolving disputes outside the courtroom. The parties may choose to use a dispute resolution service as early in the proceedings as they desire.
Court-connected ADR is governed by the Uniform Rules on Dispute Resolution, Supreme Judicial Court Rule 1:18, which took effect in 1999 and are designed to offer litigants more options in resolving disputes. There are 7 ADR processes defined in the Uniform Rules. The best known and most used ADR process is mediation.
Within the Executive Office of the Trial Court, the Coordinator of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Services provides technical assistance, advice and consultation to the Trial Court Departments in the operation of court-connected ADR Services and provides professional staff assistance to the Trial Court Standing Committee on Dispute Resolution. The Trial Court Standing Committee on Dispute Resolution advises the Chief Justice of the Trial Court on the implementation and oversight of court-connected Alternative Dispute Resolution Services.