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Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Information

This is a compilation of information and resources about alternative means of resolving disputes, including background information, links & downloads, and frequently asked questions.


The Humboldt County Superior Court offers this Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) information to assist those who have or may have lawsuits pending before the court to help them decide if ADR could be an alternate way to resolve their disputes.


Downloads (PDFs)


While various forms of ADR are described in this web page, these FAQs describe ADR generally and mediation specifically, because mediation is likely to be the most used ADR method.

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ADR is a process to help people resolve their disputes without going to trial. By using ADR you may not have to file a lawsuit, and if you do file a lawsuit, you may be able to avoid a trial. ADR is usually less formal, less expensive, and less time-consuming than a trial and may also give the parties more control over when and how their dispute is resolved.

It is the policy of the Humboldt County Superior Court to strongly support the use of ADR in all general civil cases. The court recognizes the value of early case intervention and the use of alternative dispute resolution options for amenable and eligible cases. The use of ADR will be discussed at all case management and pre-trial conferences. It is the court's expectation that litigants will utilize some form of ADR - i.e. mandatory settlement conference or other available private ADR options in an attempt to settle a case before trial.

The court also provides litigants with information about ADR.

The most commonly used ADR processes are mediation, arbitration, settlement conferences and neutral evaluation.

In mediation, an impartial person called a "mediator," helps the parties try to reach a mutually acceptable resolution of the dispute. The mediator does not decide the dispute but helps the parties communicate so they can try to settle the dispute themselves. Mediation leaves control of the outcome with the parties.

In arbitration, a neutral person called an "arbitrator", hears arguments and evidence from each side and then decides the outcome of the dispute. Arbitration is less formal than a trial, and the rules of evidence are often relaxed. Arbitration may be either "binding" or "nonbinding."

Settlement Conferences
Settlement conferences may be either mandatory or voluntary. In both types of settlement conferences, the parties and their attorneys meet with a judge (or a temporary judge) to discuss possible settlement of their dispute. The judge does not make a decision in the case but assists the parties in evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the case and in negotiating a settlement. Mandatory settlement conferences are often held close to the date a case is set for trial.

Neutral Evaluation
In neutral evaluation, each party gets a chance to present the case to a neutral person called an "evaluator". The evaluator then gives an opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of each party's evidence and arguments and about how the dispute could be resolved. The evaluator is often an expert in the subject matter of the dispute. The evaluator's opinion is not binding, but the parties typically use it as a basis for trying to negotiate a resolution to the dispute. 

A mediation process may be initiated by the parties at any time after all parties have appeared in the case.

If the parties do not otherwise agree to use ADR, these options will be discussed at the Case Management Conference, which is held approximately 120 after the case is filed. It is the court's expectation that litigants will utilize some form of ADR such as mediation and arbitration or other available private ADR options for case settlement before trial. The court may refer (on a voluntary basis) cases to arbitration or civil mediation. In certain cases, the court may order parties to judicial arbitration or a settlement conference.

The time for an ADR process varies depending upon the complexity of the case. Most cases require only one meeting to come to a resolution, but some cases may require additional sessions. All of the ADR processes must be completed by a date set by the judge, usually within 90-120 days of the date on which the judge referred the case to an ADR process.

If a settlement occurs prior to a scheduled ADR session, counsel for the parties, or the parties, should immediately notify the court as well as the mediator, arbitrator or settlement judge.

Refer to the California Courts Self Help Center for more information.

Most civil disputes are resolved without filing a lawsuit, and most civil lawsuits are resolved without a trial. Parties can save significant time and money if they choose to settle their case out of court by using Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). ADR options include mediation, arbitration, and neutral evaluation. You can find further information on different types of Alternative Dispute Resolution at

Mediation FAQs

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Mediation is a confidential, non-binding process in which a trained mediator acts as a neutral person who facilitates communication between disputants and assists parties in reaching a mutually acceptable resolution of all or part of their dispute. The mediator is not the decision-maker and does not resolve the dispute - the parties do. A mediator is often able to more fully explore the parties' underlying interests, needs and priorities. Mediation is a flexible and less formal process that may reduce the time and costs often associated with a formal trial.

Mediation may be particularly useful when parties have a relationship they want to preserve. So when family members, neighbors, or business partners have a dispute, mediation may be the ADR process to use. Mediation is also effective when emotions are getting in the way of resolution. An effective mediator can hear the parties and help them communicate with each other in an effective and constructive manner

Mediation may not be effective if one of the parties is unwilling to cooperate or compromise. Mediation also may not be effective if one of the parties has a significant advantage in power over the other. Therefore, mediation may not be a good choice if the parties have a history of abuse or victimization.

Many private mediators and organizations offering mediation services have websites or advertise in various publications, including the yellow pages. Another source for mediation services is the California Department of Consumer Affairs, Consumer Information Center, Toll free, 1-800-952-5210.

If parties agree to use a mediator the mediator's hourly rate and related costs are set by the mediator, but may be negotiable.  The mediator's charges are split between the parties.

All parties, their counsel and persons with full authority to settle the case should personally attend the mediation.  If consent to settle is required for any reason, the party with the consent authority should also be personally present at the mediation.

The mediator is an impartial neutral intermediary whose role is to help the participants reach a settlement. The mediator will not impose a settlement, but will assist the parties in exploring settlement options. Generally, the mediator does not communicate with the court except to file a Statement of Agreement/Non-Agreement.

Except as otherwise provided by the California Evidence Code or California law, all communications, negotiations, or settlement discussions in the course of a mediation or mediation consultation are confidential and are not admissible or subject to discovery.

You and your attorney should be prepared to discuss all relevant issues in your case. Before the mediation session, you and your attorney should discuss the mediation process and understand it is confidential and non-binding. You should be prepared to state your position and to listen carefully to the other side. Persuasive and forceful communication is permitted, but civility and mutual respect is vital. Hostile or argumentative tactics are likely to cause positions to become entrenched and thus discourage progress. Some mediators also require pre-mediation briefs describing the background of a case.

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