History of the Program
The Civil Mediation program was designed by a joint court-bar working committee. This committee, consisting of judges, lawyers and court management staff, spent a full year studying how best to integrate an effective and efficient alternative dispute resolution (ADR) method into our current differentiated case management (DCM) system.
The committee members, recognizing that an overwhelming majority of circuit court cases are settled, but that many are not settled until the very last few weeks prior to the commencement of a trial, sought an ADR method that would assist parties in settling their disputes at a much earlier stage in the process and which would thereby reduce the costs and anxiety on the parties of preparing for a trial that, more than likely, will not occur. Thus, the committee members identified earlier resolution of disputes as a key goal of any effective ADR program that would be adopted by the court. Other goals identified by the committee included:
- Improved trial date certainty of all circuit court cases
- A more manageable workload for the Settlement Court judges, who held conferences in approximately 1,600 cases per year prior to the mediation program
- Reduction of the court's workload in preparing for the litigation of cases
- Increase the parties' satisfaction with the dispute resolution process by allowing them more participation and greater control in resolving their particular cases
The committee came to the consensus that mediation, because of its emphasis on cooperative problem-solving and its focus on resolving disputes in a mutually satisfactory manner, would be the best ADR method for achieving the goals identified by the committee. The data from the results of cases referred to mediation indicate that the committee made a wise choice in selecting mediation as its initial ADR method.