Court-connected ADR services include any processes where the parties use a neutral third party to help settle a case or otherwise dispose of a case without a trial. In some types 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 decision. Some research suggests that using appropriate dispute resolution methods at an earlier stage in the process may greatly reduce the cost, time, and complexity of the case, while it also promotes greater satisfaction for litigants and lawyers.
The Massachusetts court system is committed to providing the public with a variety of options for solving disputes outside the courtroom. The parties may choose to use a dispute resolution service as early in the proceedings as they want.
Court-connected ADR is governed by the Uniform Rules on Dispute Resolution, Supreme Judicial Court Rule 1:18, which went into effect in 1999 and are designed to give litigants more options to solve 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 ADR Services provides technical support, advice and consultation to the Trial Court Departments in operating court-connected ADR Services, and provides professional help 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 implementing and overseeing court-connected Alternative Dispute Resolution Services.