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Supreme Judicial Court Rules

Uniform Rules on Dispute Resolution

Supreme Judicial Court Rules Uniform Dispute Resolution Rule 7: Duties of approved programs with respect to court-connected dispute resolution services

Effective Date: 01/01/2005
Updates: Adopted May 1, 1998, effective February 1, 1999 Amended November 20, 2003, effective January 1, 2005

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(a) Program administration

Programs shall be monitored and evaluated on a regular basis. Settlement rates shall not be the sole criterion for evaluation. Every program shall evaluate its neutrals on a regular basis. Every program shall develop and comply with written policies and procedures governing program administration and operations, including policies regarding evaluation, facilities, communication with the court, data collection, pressure to settle, and intake and selection, which are consistent with policies developed by Trial Court departments pursuant to Rule 3(c) and with Rules 4(a) and 6(a), (e), (f), (g), (h) and (i). A program may refuse to accept a referral from a court if the case does not meet the program's intake and selection criteria.

(b) Diversity

Programs shall be designed with knowledge of and sensitivity to the diversity of the communities served. The design shall take into consideration such factors as the languages, dispute resolution styles, and ethnic traditions of communities likely to use the services. Programs shall not discriminate against staff, neutrals, volunteers, or clients on the basis of race, color, sex, age, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs or sexual orientation. Programs shall actively strive to achieve diversity among staff, neutrals, and volunteers.

(c) Rosters

Programs shall (i) assemble, maintain and administer rosters of qualified neutrals in conformity with these rules; (ii) except in the case of programs in which the roster consists exclusively of court employees, make a reasonable effort to distribute referrals fairly among individuals on the list, taking into consideration geographic proximity, subject matter competence, special needs of the parties, scheduling, and fee levels; (iii) adopt a fair and reasonable method by which qualified individuals may join the roster at its inception, when vacancies occur, or when the caseload requires additional neutrals; and (iv) adopt a fair and reasonable method by which individuals may be removed from the roster, including a provision for a periodic review of the roster. The methods used by the program for adding and removing neutrals shall be set forth in writing and made available to individuals applying for affiliation.

(d) Presence of advisers

Parties, in consultation with their attorneys, if any, shall be permitted to decide whether their attorney, advocate or other adviser will be present at court-connected dispute resolution sessions.

(e) Fees

Programs may charge fees for service. Parties shall not be charged a fee for attendance at a mandatory screening session or an early intervention event, or for dispute resolution services provided by court employees. Fees charged by a provider of court-connected dispute resolution services shall be approved by the Chief Justice of the applicable court department. The fee schedule shall provide for fee waived or reduced fee services to be made available to indigent and low income litigants. Fees may not be contingent upon the result of the dispute resolution process or the amount of the settlement. Neutrals may assist parties to negotiate an equitable allocation of fees.

(f) Dispute resolution sessions

The program shall make reasonable efforts to schedule dispute resolution sessions at the convenience of the parties. The program shall allow adequate time in the dispute resolution session to discuss issues and reach settlement.

(g) Written agreement

 If a settlement is reached, the agreement shall be prepared in writing and signed by the parties, who shall forward for docketing a notice of the disposition of the case to the clerk of the court in which the case is pending. The neutral may participate in the preparation of the written agreement. At the parties' request, the court may allow an oral agreement instead of a written one.

(h) Orientation and supervision of neutrals

The program shall ensure that neutrals are familiar with the policies and operations of the court and the program. The program shall supervise its neutrals. During dispute resolution sessions, newly trained neutrals shall have immediate access to an experienced neutral.

(i) Enforcement of qualifications standards and ethical standards

Each approved program shall be responsible for enforcing the qualifications standards in Rule 8 and the ethical standards in Rule 9, and for taking appropriate action if a neutral on its roster fails or ceases to meet the qualifications standards or violates the ethical standards. Appropriate actions include referral for further training, suspension from the roster, or removal from the roster. If the Chief Justice of a Trial Court Department directs a program to take such action as a result of a complaint about the neutral and the program refuses to act, the Chief Justice may revoke the program's status as a program approved to receive referrals from that department.

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Updates: Adopted May 1, 1998, effective February 1, 1999 Amended November 20, 2003, effective January 1, 2005
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