Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
64B District Court
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is any "process designed to resolve a legal dispute in the place of court adjudication." ADR includes the following:
- Settlement conferences under MCR 2.401
- Case evaluation under MCR 2.403
- Mediation under MCR 2.411
- any other procedures as defined by court rule
The 64B District Court utilizes ADR. The Chief Judge of the 64B District Court has determined that ADR processes serve useful purposes in civil cases. ADR reduces costs, produces more timely resolutions, and increases litigant satisfaction with the justice system.
The court intends to refer appropriate civil cases, including summary proceedings, to mediation. Binding arbitration or case evaluation may be utilized in suitable cases.
This process may occur at any time after commencement of an action. On its own initiative, or upon request of a party, the court may direct attorneys (with or without clients) to appear for a conference. More than one conference may be held in any action.
Under MCR 2.403, the court may submit any civil action in which relief sought is primarily money damages or division of property to case evaluation. Case evaluation is a process by which panels of three attorney case evaluators assess the relative strength and weakness of the parties' legal position and immediately assign a monetary value to the case. Parties may accept or reject the evaluation. Unlike other forms of ADR, if a party rejects an evaluation and the court later determines that the action was frivolous and the action proceeds to verdict, that party may be required to pay the opposing party's actual costs, including reasonable attorney fees. The District Court works Closely with the 8th Circuit Court on case evaluation and adheres to the Circuit Court’s policies on case evaluation. For additional information on case evaluation, contact the 8th Circuit Court.
In mediation, a neutral third party facilitates discussion between parties, assists in identifying issues, and helps explore solutions to promote a mutually acceptable settlement in a confidential manner. A mediator has no final decision-making power, and the process does not involve monetary sanctions.
Once the mediation process comes to an end, your mediator will provide you with a concluding document that will set out any agreements reached.
If the mediation process results in a resolution between the parties you should be aware that the decisions you reach in mediation are not legally binding on their own. “An agreement or consent between the parties or their attorneys respecting the proceedings in an action is not binding unless it was made in open court, or unless evidence of the agreement is in writing, subscribed by the party against whom the agreement is offered or by that party's attorney.” MCR 2.507(G). If an agreement has been met, you have a number of options moving forward:
- You may proceed with the agreements reached in mediation without taking further action, however, as stated, this is not binding; or
- You may file your agreement, if signed by both parties, with the Court and ask for a hearing to finalize the matter by receiving a consent judgment. This may be preferable to avoid misunderstandings after a successful mediation outcome. Both parties will have to sign the consent judgment (provided the other party agrees with this course of action). This will make your mediation agreements legally binding;
- Alternatively, if your case is a small claims case, you may print the Judgment for Small Claims form (DC85), complete the form, filling in the correct information, and have both parties sign the the form at the bottom near where it states "Approved." Each party must sign in there perspective place, i.e., the plaintiff signs on the line listed for the plaintiff and the defendant signs on the line for the defendant. You will then have to present to form to the Court to be signed by the judge.
- If no final agreements have been reached in mediation, the case will be set for a hearing in front of the Court.
General ADR Procedures
Parties in all small claims cases will be given the opportunity to mediate their dispute before an order of referral. The court will determine whether any general civil or summary proceedings case is appropriate for mediation. Case evaluation or mediation may be ordered by stipulation of the parties, by party motion, or at any time on the courts own motion.
Parties in general civil or summary proceedings cases may select, by agreement, a private mediator. For the convenience of the parties, the court will maintain a list of trained mediators. Where the parties do not agree on a mediator, cases will be referred to the Dispute Resolution Center of West Michigan (DRCWM).
Final Settlement Conference in Civil Cases
A final settlement conference will be scheduled prior to trial in every case. The purpose of the final settlement conference is to give the parties, or their counsel, one last opportunity to settle the case or to narrow the disputed issues and discuss how the trial will proceed. Each party and person with authority to settle the case, as well as attorneys who may be trying the case, are required to attend.
Arbitration and Other ADR Processes
Parties may stipulate to an ADR process of their choice so long as scheduling and completing the ADR process does not interfere with court appearances or the timely progression of the case. Parties are encouraged to pursue any form of ADR which they believe will assist them in resolving their dispute. Arbitration may be pursued through a private arbitrator or through the American Arbitration Association.
Both the 8th Circuit Court and the 64B District Court share a list of approved mediators. For a lists of mediators contact the ADR clerk of the Circuit Court. Additional mediation services are available below.
Michigan Community Dispute Resolution Program (CDRP), Office of Dispute Resolution PO Box 30048 Lansing, MI 48909, Phone, Email