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Alternative Dispute Resolution in Trial and Appellate Courts

NCJ Number
R J MacCoun; E A Lind; T R Tyler
Date Published
24 pages
This paper reviews the available research on seven major court-administered alternative-dispute-resolution procedures that are apparently popular and representative of the broader range of alternatives: fee-shifting rules, small-claims mediation, victim-offender mediation, judicially mediated plea bargaining, judicial settlement conferences, court-annexed arbitration, and summary jury trials. With the exception of fee-shifting rules, each of these procedures involves third-party intervention by the court, although the nature of that intervention varies considerably. Some of these procedures -- the mediation hearings and settlement conferences -- are intended primarily to promote a bilateral agreement between parties without a third-party adjudicatory verdict. On the other hand, court-annexed arbitration is a form of "alternative adjudication," as it provides an explicit judgment as to liability and damages, albeit a nonbinding judgment. Summary jury trials combine features of both mediation and adjudication; they provide an advisory verdict based on the merits of the case; afterward, the judge often meets with the parties in an attempt to create a settlement. This review of the research on these alternative court procedures found that although all of the procedures yield many productive results for the parties and for the courts, they often miss the mark in fulfilling the expectations attached to them by the disputing parties and the courts. What is needed is additional research that focuses on specific reasons for the dissatisfaction of the parties and the failure of the settlement procedures to deliver what is expected. 130 references