Types of court-connected dispute resolution services

There are 7 dispute resolution processes identified in the Uniform Rules on Dispute Resolution and provided throughout the courts. Please note that all processes are not available in all courts and that at times more than one process may be appropriate for a dispute.
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Mediation

Mediation is a voluntary, confidential process in which a neutral person (a mediator) assists disputing parties in identifying and discussing issues of concern, exploring various solutions and developing a settlement that is mutually acceptable to them.

Conciliation

Conciliation is a process in which a neutral party (a conciliator) helps the attorneys for the disputing parties in clarifying the issues in conflict, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of both parties’ claims, and exploring the remaining steps to prepare the case for trial.

Case evaluation

Case evaluation is a process in which the parties or their attorneys summarize the conflict for a neutral third party (a case evaluator), who gives a nonbinding opinion of the settlement value of the case and/or a non-binding prediction of the likely outcome if the case is adjudicated.

Mini-trial

Mini-trial is a 2-step process to facilitate settlement. In the first step, the attorneys for each party present to a neutral in the presence of individuals with decision-making authority for each party a summary of the evidence and arguments they expect to offer at trial. Then, the individuals with decision-making authority meet with or without the neutral to discuss settlement of the case. If settlement is not reached, the neutral may offer, as a further aid to settlement, a prediction of the likely outcome if the case goes to trial. 

Summary jury trial

Summary jury trial is a non-binding settlement process in which the parties’ attorneys present a summary of the evidence and arguments they expect to offer at trial to a 6-person jury chosen from the court’s jury pool. The jury deliberates and returns a non-binding decision. The attorneys may discuss with the jurors their reaction to the evidence and reasons for the verdict. Also, the presiding neutral may be available to conduct a mediation with the parties.

Arbitration

Arbitration is a process in which the parties select a neutral person (an arbitrator) or a panel of 3 arbitrators. The arbitrator renders a binding or nonbinding decision at the request of the parties after hearing arguments and reviewing the evidence.

Dispute intervention

Dispute intervention is a process in which court employees meet with litigants and their attorneys, as appropriate, to identify the issues and areas of dispute between the parties, explore resolution, and provide accurate and relevant information and recommendations as requested or ordered by the court. Information obtained through dispute intervention may be reported to the court and participation in dispute intervention may be either voluntary (Housing Court) or mandatory (Probate and Family Court).

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