Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Mandatory Federal ADR Program Reduces Case Pendency and Encourages Early Settlement

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania was once in the bottom of district courts for length of time to resolve civil cases and the amount of time to decide motions. However, that court now places in the top five percent due to the implementation of mandatory alternative dispute resolution (ADR). While the number of civil trials in the has not significantly decreased since mandatory ADR was initiated, what has decreased is time between filing and trial-- now less than a year. The program is judge directed, as opposed to being run out of the clerk's office or a separate staff. Under the procedure, lawyers have a duty to "meet and confer" prior to the initial case-management conference and to choose the form of ADR and a neutral. Litigants and lawyers are encouraged to reasonable, thoughtful and analytical in assessing cases rather than just digging into positions. According to the article below by Karen Engro, designer of the ADR program that was implemented there, cases are settling much earlier, before the deluge of discovery and motion practice. By requiring litigants to enter ADR prior to substantial discovery and the filing of summary judgments motions, the court has shifted the settlement time line substantially earlier in the litigation process. Engro reports mandatory ADR program is changing the settlement culture from settling on the courthouse steps to early resolution. More here, including statistics: