Hon. Eugene D. Faughnan, J.S.C., Administrative Judge
Porter L. Kirkwood, Esq., District Executive
Statement of Policy
It is the policy of the Unified Court System to encourage the resolution of civil legal disputes by methods including mediation, arbitration, neutral evaluation, in-court settlement practices, and summary jury trials. All civil actions or proceedings heard in the Supreme Court Family Court, Surrogate’s Court, and City Court of the 6th JD shall be presumptively eligible for early referral to an alternative dispute resolution process unless otherwise excluded. Courts may refer parties to an ADR process at any time after an action has been commenced and are encouraged to do so at the earliest appropriate opportunity.
ADR Plan in the 6th Judicial District
Courts in the 6th Judicial District are committed to finding innovative and cost-effective ways of resolving matters and assuring positions and interests are explored at the earliest appropriate opportunity. Alternative Dispute Resolution is available in the Supreme Court for Civil and Matrimonial matters, in the Family Court for Custody and Visitation matters, in Surrogate’s Court, and in City Court.
Court staff and the local Community Dispute Resolution Centers are all available to assist participants to find resolutions. If you have a case pending with one of the above courts within the Sixth District, or if you are looking for more information about ADR, please contact the court in which your case is pending or the 6th Judicial District’s ADR Coordinator (See Contact Information, below).
Summary of 6th Judicial District ADR Plan
Implementation of the 6th District’s ADR Plan is summarized as follows:
Supreme Court – The 6th JD utilizes court staff to engage in presumptive ADR in all pending matters. In addition, Court Attorney-Referees assigned to the District Office, who are also certified mediators, can provide mediation services at no cost to the litigants. All cases pending in NYS Supreme Court are eligible for referral to mediation at any stage of the litigation. When parties are ready to mediate, one party must file an RJI (if not already filed), and the assigned judge can issue an Order of Referral to mediation after consultation with the District Office.
Family Court –
- The 6th JD Family Courts utilize ADR at all stages of a proceeding and at each appearance. Settlement conferences will be held on the first court date by either the Judge, the Judge’s Court Attorney, or the Support Magistrate. In addition, all custody and visitation cases are screened at intake for eligibility for mediation by the CDRC serving that county. If the case remains eligible after screening, mediation will either occur at that time or be scheduled thereafter. Agreements reached in mediation through the CDRC will be sent to the Family Court Judge for approval.
- Family Court Permanency Mediation - The Sixth Judicial District implemented permanency mediation in its Family Courts following enactment of Family Court Act § 1018. This program utilizes specially trained consultant mediators to mediate child abuse and neglect matters pending before the Family Courts.
Individuals who wish to learn more about this program, including how to become a consultant mediator, can find more details here or refer to the Contact Information below.
Surrogate’s Court – The Surrogate in each county reviews each contested Surrogate’s Court matter to determine on a case by case basis whether a matter is eligible for an ADR track. Upon the Surrogate’s discretion, each contested matter may be referred to ADR to be conducted by Court Attorney Justin Harby-Conforti, Esq., who is trained in specifically in Mediation of Surrogate’s Court matters, or the Court Attorney-Referees at the District Office.
City Court – Judges actively engage in settlement conferencing with parties to all civil actions and summary proceedings at an initial appearance in an attempt to reach an amicable resolution. In addition, the majority of our city courts also send a copy of their small claims calendars to the local CDRC for mediation outreach.
- Binghamton City Court – Binghamton City Court currently sends all actions where the requested damages are less than $6,000 and parties are represented by attorneys to mandatory arbitration under Part 28. The Commissioner of the Part 28 arbitration, the Broome County Supreme and County Court Chief Clerk refers these matters to eligible attorneys willing to serve as Arbitrators, or a Court Attorney-Referee. In addition, Binghamton City Court forwards all small claims calendars to Accord to see if parties are interested in pursuing mediation.
- Cortland City Court – All small claims actions are presumptively referred to New Justice for resolution by mediation at the same time a court date is set.
|Lisa D. Smith, Esq.
Court Attorney Referee
Sixth Judicial District
31 Lewis Street, 5th Floor
Binghamton, NY 13901
|Sue Shafer, Coordinator
Child Permanency Mediation Program
Sixth Judicial District
|Bridget M. O’Connell, Esq., JD/MSW
Court Attorney Referee
Deputy Chief Administrative Judge’s Office
For Courts Outside New York City
Alternative Dispute Resolution Coordinator
NYS Jud. Districts 5,6,7,8 & Court of Claims
25 Delaware Avenue, Room 543
Buffalo NY 14202