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, the Superior 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.
Superior Court Mediation and Discovery Master Services
The Superior Court offers limited free mediation and discovery master services in civil cases primarily involving unrepresented litigants and parties who are unable to afford the services of a private mediator or master. Superior Court ADR Officer James McCormack is available to mediate cases and to explain ADR services to attorneys and parties. Retired Superior Court judges Paul Chernoff and John Cratsley provide a range of ADR services in Middlesex and Suffolk Counties where at least one party certifies that the party is unable to afford private ADR. The Superior Court also works with the Essex Bar Association and with Greater Lowell ADR, Inc. to provide free conciliation services to civil litigants in Essex County and Northern Middlesex County. With those programs, trained members of the bar act as conciliators. Please email James McCormack at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to request a referral to court-connected ADR.
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.