What is Mediation?
Mediation is a process where conflicting parties sit down to resolve their disputes. During mediation, a professionally trained mediator skillfully facilitates effective communication between conflicting parties to clarify facts, identify legal issues and explore settlement options. Mediation is used most successfully when emotions otherwise get in the way of resolution. Because resolutions made during mediation last, many California courts are adopting mediation programs to help disputing parties resolve their cases.
The Superior Court of California, County of Stanislaus offers a Voluntary Mediation Program to help general civil cases (i.e. personal injury, business disputes) resolve before trial. The client, as a party to a lawsuit, can request mediation. All parties involved must agree to use mediation. The process is confidential -- the Court cannot ask the mediator to testify at the trial regarding what happened during mediation.
Many courts successfully use mediation as a form of alternative dispute resolution.
- Mediation is voluntary. All sides must agree to mediate and have an equal part in resolving the dispute.
- Mediation is confidential. Evidence created during mediation cannot be used in a subsequent civil trial.
- Mediation can be cost-effective if it is used early.
- Mediators are specially trained and experienced to assist both sides in bringing the case to a mutually agreeable resolution.
What is the Court's Voluntary Mediation Program?
The Court's Voluntary Mediation Program is a ground-breaking program. The parties to a lawsuit have the freedom to resolve their conflict in their own time. The Court provides a panel of knowledgeable and skilled mediators trained by Pepperdine Law School's Straus Institute for conflict resolution. All of the Court's mediators must meet the qualifications specified by the Court.
Which cases qualify for Mediation?
All types of general civil cases qualify and may benefit from mediation. A party can request meditation, however, if the hearing judge believes the case would benefit from judicial arbitration then he or she may order it.
Who are the Mediators?
Mediators are experienced lawyers who have been practicing civil law for at least five years. All of the mediators have completed a Court-approved formal mediation training program. See the list of Court-approved mediators.
Who pays for Mediation?
The Voluntary Mediation Program is self-funded and the parties who use the program must pay for it themselves. Parties selecting a mediator from the mediation panel pay $200 per side to the Court. The fee covers the first two hours of mediation. Parties who need more time for mediation pay for the mediation directly at a rate set by the mediator.
Parties may qualify to receive mediation for free or at a reduced cost if they are low income and represented by a not-for-profit legal agency or are representing themselves as pro-pers. For more information contact the ADR program office.
Entering the Court's Mediation Program
About four months after the complaint is filed the lawyers will meet at a Case Management Conference (CMC) with the hearing judge. At the CMC the judge will ask the lawyers if the parties are willing to participate in mediation. If both sides agree to mediation then the judge may order it.
If both sides agree they may volunteer for mediation even if the hearing judge does not order it by filling out a Stipulation and Order to ADR form (STAN 100) and filing it with the Court. Before the form can be submitted the mediator and the opposing side must sign the form to notify the Court that all the parties agree to mediation. If the mediator does not sign the form the Court will randomly select a mediator if the appropriate box on the form is selected. The form must also be returned with $400 ($200 from each side) to pay for the first two hours of mediation. The $400 goes to the mediator for services.
When will Mediation begin?
After a mediator is selected from the mediation panel the mediation session will be scheduled at a time that is convenient for all parties. Once the mediation is scheduled the parties must complete and submit a Notice of Date, Time and Place of Mediation (STAN 220). If the parties request that the Court select a mediator then one will be selected within 30 days of the CMC. The Court requires the mediation process be completed at least 60 days before the scheduled settlement conference.
Who attends Mediation?
The mediator, the parties and the attorneys must attend the mediation. The mediator may require others to attend. Both sides must have at least one person present with the authority to settle the case.
What if the Mediation is unsuccessful?
If mediation does not lead to a resolution the case will proceed to a settlement conference and a trial if necessary.
What are the Mediation deadlines?
Parties must notify the mediator at least five days before a scheduled mediation if they have settled their case. If they do not do so or if they do not complete mediation they will lose the mediation fees they have paid.
Ten days after mediation the mediator is required to file a Mediator's Report (STAN 230) indicating whether the case has settled.
Also, within 10 days of the mediation, parties are asked to complete an evaluation of their mediation experience.
The Court tracks whether deadlines are met in the Voluntary Mediation Program. The Court requires the parties to explain any deadlines they miss, sanctions them or their attorneys up to $300 and/or assigns the case to Judicial Arbitration for missing any deadline.