Supreme Judicial Court Rules

Uniform Rules on Dispute Resolution

Supreme Judicial Court Rules Uniform Dispute Resolution Rule 2: Definitions

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

Table of Contents


"Arbitration" means a process in which a neutral renders a binding or non-binding decision after hearing arguments and reviewing evidence.

"Case evaluation" means a process in which the parties or their attorneys present a summary of their cases to a neutral who renders a non-binding opinion of the settlement value of the case and/or a non-binding prediction of the likely outcome if the case is adjudicated.

"Clerk" means the clerk, clerk-magistrate, recorder, or register of a court, or a designated assistant clerk-magistrate, assistant recorder or assistant register of probate.

"Community mediation program" means a non-profit, charitable program whose goals are to promote the use of mediation and related conflict resolution services by volunteers to resolve disputes including those that come to, or might otherwise come to, the courts.

"Conciliation" means a process in which a neutral assists parties to settle a case by clarifying the issues and assessing the strengths and weaknesses of each side of the case, and, if the case is not settled, explores the steps which remain to prepare the case for trial.

"Court" means the Land Court, the Boston Municipal Court, or a division of the District Court, the Superior Court, the Probate and Family Court, the Housing Court or the Juvenile Court. The provisions of these rules addressed to courts shall apply to judges, clerks, probation officers and other employees of these courts. For the purposes of Rule 9, "court" also includes the appellate courts.

"Court-connected dispute resolution services" means dispute resolution services provided as the result of a referral by a court. "To refer," for purposes of this definition, means to provide a party to a case with the name of one or more dispute resolution services providers or to direct a party to a particular dispute resolution service provider.

"Dispute intervention" means a process used in the Probate and Family Court and in the Housing Court in which a neutral identifies the areas of dispute between the parties, and assists in the resolution of differences.

"Dispute resolution service" means any process in which an impartial third party is engaged to assist in the process of settling a case or otherwise disposing of a case without a trial, including arbitration, mediation, case evaluation, conciliation, dispute intervention, early neutral evaluation, mini-trial, summary jury trial, any combination of these processes, and any comparable process determined by the Chief Justice for Administration and Management of the Trial Court or the Supreme Judicial Court to be subject to these rules. The term "dispute resolution service" does not include a pretrial conference, an early intervention event, a screening, a trial, or an investigation.

"Early intervention" means a compulsory, judicially supervised event, early in the life of a case, with multiple objectives relating to both scheduling of litigation and selection of dispute resolution services.

"Early neutral evaluation" means case evaluation which occurs early in the life of a dispute.

"Immediate family" means the individual's spouse, domestic partner, guardian, ward, parents, children, and siblings.

"Mediation" means a voluntary, confidential process in which a neutral is invited or accepted by disputing parties to assist them in identifying and discussing issues of mutual concern, exploring various solutions, and developing a settlement mutually acceptable to the disputing parties.

"Mini-trial" means a two-step process to facilitate settlement in which (a) the parties' attorneys present a summary of the evidence and arguments they expect to offer at trial to a neutral in the presence of individuals with decision-making authority for each party, and (b) the individuals with decision-making authority meet with or without the neutral to discuss settlement of the case.

"Neutral" means an individual engaged as an impartial third party to provide dispute resolution services and includes but is not limited to a mediator, an arbitrator, a case evaluator, and a conciliator. "Neutral" also includes a master, clerk, clerk-magistrate, register, recorder, family service officer, housing specialist, probation officer, and any other court employee when that individual is engaged as an impartial third party to provide dispute resolution services. For purposes of Rule 9, "neutral" also means an administrator of a program providing court-connected dispute resolution services.

"Program" means an organization with which neutrals are affiliated, through membership on a roster or a similar relationship, which administers, provides and monitors dispute resolution services. A program may be operated by a court employee or by an organization independent of the court, including a corporation or a governmental agency. A program operated by a court employee may include one or more court employees or non-employees or a combination of court employees and non-employees on its roster.

"Provider" or "provider of dispute resolution services" means a program which provides dispute resolution services or a neutral who provides dispute resolution services.

"Screening" means an orientation session in which parties to a case and/or their attorneys receive information about dispute resolution services. The case is reviewed to determine whether referral to a dispute resolution service is appropriate, and, if so, to which one. In a screening, there may also be discussion to narrow the issues in the case, to set discovery parameters, or to address other case management issues.

"Summary jury trial" means a non-binding determination administered by the court in which (a) the parties' attorneys present a summary of the evidence and arguments they expect to offer at trial to a six-person jury chosen from the court's jury pool, (b) the jury deliberates and returns a non-binding decision on the issues in dispute, (c) the attorneys may discuss with the jurors their reaction to the evidence and reasons for the verdict, and (d) the presiding neutral may be available to conduct a mediation with the parties.