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Supreme Judicial Court Rules

Uniform Rules on Dispute Resolution

Supreme Judicial Court Rules Uniform Dispute Resolution Rule 1: Court-connected dispute resolution

Adopted Date: 05/01/1998
Effective Date: 06/01/1998

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Table of Contents

(a) Scope, applicability and purpose of rules

These rules govern court-connected dispute resolution services provided in civil and criminal cases in every department of the Trial Court. The Ethical Standards in Rule 9 also apply to neutrals who provide court-connected dispute resolution services in the Supreme Judicial Court and the Appeals Court. The purpose of the rules is to increase access to court-connected dispute resolution services, to ensure that these services meet standards of quality and procedural fairness, and to foster innovation in the delivery of these services. The rules shall be construed so as to secure those ends. To the extent that there is any conflict between these rules and the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure, the Massachusetts Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Massachusetts Rules of Appellate Procedure, the Massachusetts Rules of Domestic Relations Procedure, the Juvenile Court Rules, the Standards and Forms For Probation Offices of the Probate and Family Court Department (hereinafter the "Probation Standards") promulgated by the Office of the Commissioner of Probation effective July 1, 1994, or the Rules of the Supreme Judicial Court and the Appeals Court, then the Massachusetts Rules of Civil, Criminal, Appellate, and Domestic Relations Procedure, the Juvenile Court Rules, the Probation Standards, or the Supreme Judicial Court and Appeals Court rules shall control. The Supreme Judicial Court, the Appeals Court, the Chief Justice for Administration and Management, and each Trial Court department may adopt additional rules or administrative procedures to supplement these rules, provided that they are consistent with these rules.

(b) Guiding principles

The interpretation of these rules shall be guided by the following principles:

(i) Quality. The judiciary, collaborating with others experienced in dispute resolution, is responsible for assuring the high quality of the dispute resolution services to which it refers the public.

(ii) Integrity. Dispute resolution services should be provided in accordance with ethical standards and with the best interest of the disputants as the paramount criterion.

(iii) Accessibility. Dispute resolution services should be available to all members of the public regardless of their ability to pay.

(iv) Informed choice of process and provider. Wherever appropriate, people should be given a choice of dispute resolution processes and providers and information upon which to base the choice.

(v) Self-determination. Wherever appropriate, people should be allowed to decide upon the issues to be discussed during a dispute resolution process, and to decide the terms of their agreements.

(vi) Timely services. Dispute resolution services, to be most effective, should be available early in the course of a dispute.

(vii) Diversity. The policies, procedures and providers of dispute resolution services should reflect the diverse needs and background of the public.

(viii) Qualification of neutrals. Dispute resolution services should be performed only by qualified neutrals. There are many ways in which a neutral may become competent, and there are many ways to determine qualifications of neutrals, such as assessing performance and considering a neutral's education, training, experience and subject matter expertise.

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