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Alternative Dispute Resolution in a Bankruptcy Court: The Mediation Program in the Southern District of California

NCJ Number
S Hartwell; G Bermant
Date Published
88 pages
This report describes the background, structure, and current operations of the bankruptcy mediation program in California's Southern district. It analyzes its first 80 adversary proceedings during the period from August 18, 1986, through January 7, 1988.
To analyze the effectiveness of the mediation program, interviews and archival analysis were used. Interview subjects included 26 judges and senior court staff, mediators, and advocates. Case files of each proceeding assigned to mediation were reviewed and summarized. Of the 80 proceedings, 67 arose from Chapter 7 liquidation cases the remaining 13 arise from Chapter 11 reorganization efforts. Findings indicate that 3 judges used the program primarily for the mediation of dischargeability disputes and with different frequencies: 27.5 percent, 55 percent and 17.5 percent. At the conclusion of the study, 22 proceedings had terminated as a result of mediation, 13 were awaiting mediation, 17 had terminated by other means than mediation, 20 in which mediation had not been effective in resolving the dispute were pending and 8 were pending in 'uncertain' conditions. The authors conclude that the mediation program as instituted seems to move proceedings off the judges' pretrial status conference calendars; and that judges are optimistic that they can save time by referring certain issues to mediators.