Mediating Cases Pending in Georgia's Courts|
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Many courts in Georgia require parties to mediate before trial. The administration of this process varies considerable among the courts. This information is intended to help parties, attorneys and neutrals navigate court-connected ADR procedures.
Typical Court-Connected Referral Process in Georgia
Typically, when a case is referred to a court-connected alternative dispute resolution program, a "Notice of Referral to Mediation/ADR" is issued to the parties which gives the parties 10-13 days to select their ADR process (typically mediation) and select their mediator. If the parties can't agree or don't respond in time, the administering agency will assign a mediator and schedule a mediation session. While court programs cannot order parties to settle, they frequently order parties to mediate.
Responding to Notice of ADR
Many Georgia court programs maintain lists of neutrals it has approved for civil mediation, domestic relations mediation, case evaluation and/or arbitration. Parties can select a neutral approved by the court program, have a neutral appointed to their case or use a mediator who is not on the court program list.
It is important that the parties inform the ADR Office of their neutral selection and arrangements for dispute resolution. Any mediation or case evaluation conducted to satisfy a Notice of ADR Referral should be conducted in accordance with applicable mediation guidelines. Regardless of where the mediation takes place, a Mediation Report Form should be completed by the Mediator and submitted to the ADR Office so they can verify compliance with the Notice of ADR Referral.
Opting Out of Court-Connected Mediation: Other Mediators, Late Responses
There are two main circumstances where parties may wish to "opt out" of court-connected mediation.
First, the parties may wish to mediate with someone who is not on program's approved list. Some jurisdictions allow parties to utilize any state-approved mediators while other programs guard their lists carefully. It is important to follow the program's rules, including the required time and manner of notifying the court about mediation.
Second, if the parties do not communicate their mediator selection and arrangements in the time provided, a mediator may be assigned to their case. If that occurs, the parties may be required to file a "Consent Order" to proceed with their chosen, rather than assigned, mediator.
Mediation Prior to Referral
Parties may mediate privately at any time. Many parties mediate voluntarily or in anticipation of a court order to do so. Our research suggests that mediated settlement rates do not increase with the longer litigation continues.
While parties are free to mediate privately on their own terms, we do suggest that parties who are mediating cases pending in court follow mediation guidelines that would be applicable and have their mediator prepare a Mediation Report if mediation does not result in full settlement. Generally, parties are not required to mediate a case that has already been mediated. In any particular case, however, a judge would have the discretion to order parties to mediate more than once.
Variety of Programs in Georgia
Administration of court-connected ADR programs varies considerably throughout Georgia.
In some courts, including U.S. District Courts in Georgia and many state courts, judges may order the parties to mediate but leave the specific arrangements to the parties themselves. In some areas, courts may refer parties to a private, non-profit mediation center. Some courts operate their own mediation programs with mediation sessions being conducted by paid employees. Some courts pay mediators to allow parties to mediate for free; other courts require parties to pay the mediators while still other courts use volunteer mediators. Some programs seem primarily concerned that a good faith effort to resolve the dispute take place, while others have rules establishing a list of approved mediators, fixing the date, time, location, forms used and how the mediation is conducted.
While the variety of court-connected ADR programs can be confusing, understanding the process and how various court program operate can help parties navigate the process and utilize ADR effectively.
Specific Georgia Court-Connected ADR Programs
Additional information is available for the following programs:
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