Background and history
Attorneys in Santa Barbara have by now, after more than a year of operation, become readily familiar with the name of the new CADRe program, CMADRESS (Case Management Alternative Dispute Resolution Early Settlement Session). This program was spearheaded by Judge J. William McLafferty and the ADR Committee of the Santa Barbara Court. After many months of planning and successful application for funding from the Administrative Office of the Courts in Sacramento, the CMADRESS program can now be considered a success after its first full year.
The administration of the CMADRESS program by the court was delegated to the CADRe office. Many facilitators who already qualified as CADRe neutrals volunteered to participate for assignment in the CMADRESS program. Therefore, not all CADRe neutrals receive CMADRESS assignments. The assignments are handled by the CADRe director.
Report card after one year running
Meetings were recently conducted seeking feedback in response to the CMADRESS program from the local bar and participating facilitators. The overall consensus of opinion was favorable for the CMADRESS program. Current funding from the grant has been able to sustain the program. One new change created was to extend the amount of time to complete the CMADRESS from 45 days to 60 days after assignment of the neutral. This will allow all sides to become better prepared for the session and will also accommodate some scheduling obstacles. Also, if additional time is needed beyond this 60 day period, it will now be the responsibility of the parties to obtain permission to conduct the CMADRESS beyond this deadline. Formerly, it was the responsibility of the assigned facilitator to obtain additional time to conduct the CMADRESS.
The CADRe website maintains statistics on all the CMADRESS case assignments. This includes, among many other items, the number of cases that have been assigned to CMADRESS for both North and South County, the number that have been completed, the number that have segued into mediation subsequent to the Early Settlement Session and reached agreement and those that have also segued into mediation subsequent to the Early Settlement Session but have ended in no agreement. These statistics are regularly updated.
The statistics speak to the success of the CMADRESS program for both the North and South County. More cases have been referred to the CMADRESS program in the South County giving it a numerical, statistical advantage. However, review of the statistics for both locations shows that during the course of one year, more and more cases are resolving by way of the CMADRESS program.
Your new case and CMADRESS
Assignment to CMADRESS begins at a Case Management Conference of any civil case. CMADRESS is used for all civil litigation cases determined by the court to have a value in excess of $50,000.00. CMADRESS is not used with family law matters. At the time of the CMC when the case is ordered to CMADRESS, the parties can also expect that the court will set a Mandatory Settlement Conference date as well as a corresponding Trial date.
Once ordered to CMADRESS, all sides must move promptly to contact the CADRe office within a specific time frame (10 days) for assignment of a neutral. The deadline imposed by the court to complete the CMADRESS session is now 60 days from assignment of the neutral and this change should be reflected in all future Case Management orders. Similar to the CADRe Limited Mediation assignment, once a facilitator is assigned to the CMADRESS case, the parties and attorneys must initiate contact with the facilitator to schedule a session. When the scheduling is arranged within the time line allowed by the court, the parties must notify the CADRe office of the date, time and place of the session.
In attempting to schedule the CMADRESS session, if the parties and/or attorneys find they are unable to conduct the session within the court's 60 day deadline, a request for an extension of time can be made. This request must explain briefly the reason for the delay and the need for more time. Approval is obtained from the Settlement Conference judge only, not the trial assigned judge. This rule applies to cases in the North as well as South County. The request should also specify the exact quantity of additional time by advising the court of the future CMADRESS session date. The extension of time to complete CMADRESS does not apply to the MSC or Trial date. Those will remain unchanged if the court approves the request for an extension of time to conduct a CMADRESS session. Continuances of the MSC and/or Trial Dates must be directed to the assigned Trial Judge and should be joined in by the assigned neutral.
Participating in the CMADRESS
Conducting the CMADRESS for all intents and purposes is the same or similar to that of any Mandatory Settlement Conference or Mediation. The necessary parties with full settlement authority are required to attend. Telephonic appearances will not be allowed. The designated Trial attorney for each side is also required to attend the CMADRESS. All sides are encouraged to submit briefs to the facilitator so to better understand the facts of the case.
During the CMADRESS, the facilitator will discuss with all sides CMADRESS, the ADR process and alternative ADR methods available. This will include costs of discovery for alternative ADR methods as well as costs of discovery for Trial and eventual Trial costs. The facilitator is paid by the court for the three hour CMADRESS session. Thereafter, if the parties and attorneys agree to use an alternate ADR method enlisting the services of the assigned facilitator, payment to this neutral becomes the responsibility of the litigants. The parties and/or attorneys are also entitled to arrange for someone other than the assigned CMADRESS facilitator should they intend to pursue other alternate ADR methods in lieu of or in addition to the CMADRESS session. In the event of either of those two options, a stipulation on the CADRe form must be fully completed, signed and submitted to the CADRe office for approval by the Court and filing, and the parties will be responsible for the facilitator's fees.
At the conclusion of the CMADRESS session, the facilitator serves and files a CMADRESS report with the court listing those in attendance, whether any future ADR is being considered, if any extensions of time will be necessary, and if the topics of ADR and Trial including discovery and costs of litigation were discussed. The parties and/or attorneys are requested to complete a CMADRESS evaluation of the neutral to be returned to the CADRe office.
In summary, after one year, the CMADRESS program hit the ground running and has performed successfully, in many cases, beyond the expectations of the local bar and the court. There is ongoing fine tuning to be made by the ADR committee of the Superior Court. This can only be done with future public bar input. It is the hope of the ADR committee that the current success of the program will result in future funding from the AOC in Sacramento for this court and, perhaps, other Courts in California, as this is a pilot program for all of the State Courts.
By Paul Bielaczyc
Paul Bielaczyc is an Attorney, an Arbitrator and a Mediator focusing his ADR efforts on all areas of general civil litigation. He is an approved panelist for the Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura Superior Court Mediation programs. You may call Tri-County Mediation at (805) 565-8725 for more information or to view the profile of Mr. Bielaczyc, go on-line to http://www.tricomediate.com or by going to the Santa Barbara County Superior Court CADRe website at http://www.sbcadre.org/bielaczyc.htm.
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