Alternative Dispute Resolution for the 3rd JD

ADR Programs by court type:

Family Court | City Court | Surrogates Court | Supreme Court

 

Mission

The New York State Presumptive Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Program seeks to provide litigants with alternative means to resolve their disputes rather than the lengthy and expensive process of traditional litigation. Courts that refer cases to ADR early in the process invariably report higher party satisfaction with the outcome, lower costs, increased efficiency and a reduction in the court’s overall docket.

It is the policy of the Unified Court System to encourage the resolution of civil legal disputes by methods including mediation, arbitration, neutral evaluation, settlement conferencing, and summary jury trials. All civil actions or proceedings heard in the Supreme Court, Family Court, Surrogate’s Court and City Court 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 possible opportunity.

If you have a matter that is currently pending in the Third Judicial District that you would like considered for referral to ADR, or if you simply have a question concerning ADR in the Third Judicial District, please contact:

Carmelo Laquidara, Esq.
ADR Coordinator for the Third Judicial District
2500 Pond View, Suite 210
Castleton-on-Hudson, NY 12033
claquida@nycourts.gov

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ADR

ADR CONTACT INFORMATION

3rd Judicial District

Hon. Gerald Connolly, Administrative Judge

Counties: Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, Schoharie, Sullivan, Ulster

ADR Coordinator Carmelo M. Laquidara, Esq.

3rd Judicial District

2500 Pond View, Suite 210

Castleton-on-Hudson 12033

claquida@nycourts.gov
 

Presumptive ADR

In a presumptive Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) referral model, parties are referred early on to utilize some form of ADR such as arbitration, mediation, neutral evaluation or settlement conferencing. However, a referral can occur at any stage in a case. The referral to ADR should preferably be done early in the court process, before costs rise and positions harden. Whenever possible, referrals are based on pre-determined case characteristics, rather than on a case-by-case basis. While the Court presumes that certain case categories are appropriate for some form of ADR, parties can choose to opt-out. Also, the case intake and screening processes in place further support party safety and assessment of case appropriateness for ADR.

ADR can include a variety of processes, such as settlement conferencing with the court and court staff, or a Court Attorney-Referee from the 3rd Judicial District Office, mediation with a court connected or private mediator, or a Court Attorney-Referee, mediation through a local Community Dispute Resolution Center (CDRC), Arbitration, Neutral Evaluation and other customized processes.

Types of ADR

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): ADR stands for alternative dispute resolution – a variety of processes that help parties resolve their dispute without a trial. ADR may also refer to appropriate dispute resolution, referring to a number of processes that can be used to resolve a conflict, dispute or claim.

Arbitration: Arbitration is a process where disputing parties agree that one or several individuals --- the arbitrators --- can make a decision about the dispute after receiving evidence and hearing arguments. Arbitration is different from mediation because the arbitrator has the authority to make a decision about the dispute. The process may be similar to a trial in that the parties make opening statements and present evidence to the arbitrator; however, it is usually less formal and is often faster. Arbitration may be binding or non-binding, which depends on either an agreement between the parties or any applicable law in this area, depending on the jurisdiction involved. In binding arbitration, parties agree to accept the arbitrator’s decision as final. In nonbinding arbitration, the parties may request a trial if they don’t accept the arbitrator’s decision.

Mediation: Mediation refers to a confidential dispute resolution process in which a neutral third party --- the mediator -- helps parties identify issues, clarify perceptions, and explore options for a mutually acceptable outcome. The mediator does not decide the case but helps the parties to resolve the dispute themselves. Mediation seeks to ensure that the parties arrive at a voluntary, uncoerced decision in which each party makes free and informed choices as to process and outcome. Attorneys are strongly encouraged to participate in mediation, and in some contexts, may be required to participate. Mediation may be inappropriate if a party has a significant advantage in power or control over the other.

Presumptive mediation: In a presumptive mediation referral model, parties are referred to mediation at some point in the court process, preferably early, before costs rise and positions harden. Referrals are made to mediation based on pre-determined case characteristics, rather than on a case-by-case basis, wherever possible. Mediation referrals include a provision for parties to opt-out, while case intake and screening further support party safety and assessment of case appropriateness for mediation.

Neutral Evaluation: Neutral evaluation is an ADR process where the case is referred to an expert, usually an attorney, who is asked to provide a balanced and unbiased evaluation of the dispute. Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) may take place soon after a case has been filed in court. If this process occurs early, it may be referred to as Early Neutral Evaluation. Regardless, a court may refer the case to ENE or the parties may mutually agree to this process. The parties either submit written comments or meet in person with the expert. The expert identifies each side’s strengths and weaknesses and provides an evaluation of the likely outcome of a trial. This evaluation can assist the parties in assessing their case and may propel them towards a settlement. Often, the expert’s opinion may be of great significance to one or more parties as it may serve to confirm the evaluation of the case by that party’s attorney.

Settlement Conferencing: Settlement conferences are similar to mediation in that a third-party neutral assists the parties in exploring settlement; however, these conferences are usually conducted by a judge or court staff and generally focus on the attorneys and their legal arguments. A settlement conference is an important case management tool and is usually shorter than a mediation session and provides fewer opportunities for direct party participation or for consideration of non-legal interests that may be driving the conflict.

You may seek the services of a Community Dispute Resolution Center (CDRC), which offers free and low-cost mediation. There is a CDRC for every county in New York State. They can mediate court cases, as well as disputes that are not in court. Many CDRCs offer virtual mediation. If a court refers your case to mediation, consult first with the referring court about your options: in some courts and in some case types, mediation services may be free of charge. More information and a link to your local CDRC can be found here:

Special Masters: Special masters are experienced neutrals who can assist judges with effective case management, play a role in technologically complex disputes, assist with discovery oversight and management, facilitate resolution among parties or co-parties, and conduct mini-trials upon consent of the parties.

Summary Jury Trials: A summary jury trial is a one-day trial in which attorneys for each party present a shortened version of the case in a real courtroom before a jury. It is similar to arbitration except that a jury decides factual issues and renders a verdict as a jury would in a traditional trial. The trial may be either non-binding or binding, depending on the agreement of the parties and order of the court. Damages can be floored and capped on a high/low basis by agreement of counsel. The verdict is frequently helpful in getting a settlement, particularly where one of the parties has an unrealistic assessment of the case.

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What notice will I receive about whether my case will be referred to a form of ADR?

Most courts have begun to notify parties, and their attorneys if represented, that they are to attend an ADR session by a written order. Other courts are orally directing parties to some form of ADR and sometimes your local Community Dispute Resolution Center (CDRC) may reach out to you by email or phone at the request of the court to schedule an intake. The determination of how parties are notified that they have been referred for ADR is made by each court based on case type and the resources available.

 

FAMILY COURT

What cases are eligible: Custody and visitation cases.

Type of ADR: Mediation

Process: Custody and visitation cases will be screened at intake, usually by court staff, for eligibility by the CDRC serving that county. After an initial appearance, the Judge will also review the case to determine if it is appropriate for ADR.

If case remains eligible after screening, mediation will either occur at that time or be scheduled thereafter. Agreements reached in mediation will be sent to the Family Court Judge for approval.

Exempt from ADR: PINS, Juvenile Delinquency proceedings, Abuse and Neglect Proceedings, Cases with Domestic Violence, Cases with incarcerated litigants, Adoptions

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CITY COURT

What cases are eligible: small claims and commercial claims in all City Courts in the 3rd JD.

Type of ADR: Mediation, Settlement conference

Process: Judge will refer cases to presumptive mediation conducted by the CDRC at the given court. Judges also actively engage in settlement conferencing with the parties, and their counsel if applicable in an attempt to reach an amicable resolution.

** Albany City Court/Troy City Court: The Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York provides “lawyers for the day” on certain days of the month to assist low-income, self-represented tenants in landlord/tenant proceedings.

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SURROGATES COURT

What cases are eligible: Accountings, Administration and Probate Disputes

Type of ADR: Mediation/Settlement Conference

Process: At the Preliminary Conference the assigned judge will evaluate the case to see if it is appropriate for ADR. Cases involving large estates or sophisticated legal arguments will be referred to a Court Attorney-Referee at the 3rd Judicial District Office. Cases involving pro se parties, small estates or cases driven by complex family dynamics will be referred to the CDRC serving that county (see list below). Parties can also choose, at their own expense, either a mediator from the 3rd Judicial District’s approved Roster or a private mediator of their choosing.

Exempt from ADR: 17A Guardianships, Adoptions, Appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem, Kinship hearings

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SUPREME COURT

1. Albany County Supreme Court

Type of ADR/Process: Mediation/Settlement Conference

At the Preliminary Conference, the Judge will evaluate whether the matter is appropriate for mediation/settlement conference. If so, the Judge will direct the parties to engage in ADR and refer the matter to a Court Attorney-Referee in the 3rd Judicial District Office. The parties and their counsel will be notified of when to appear and what documents to provide prior to the conference. Parties can also choose, at their own expense, either a mediator from the 3rd Judicial District’s approved Roster or a private mediator of their choosing. Cases not resolved through ADR will be released for further proceedings before the assigned Judge.

2. Albany County Supreme Court: Commercial Division

Type of ADR/Process:

Mediation: A. Judge appoints mediator from an approved roster or B. A private mediator at the parties expense

Neutral Case Evaluator: Appointed by the Judge or a private Neutral Case Evaluator at the parties expense

Court Attorney/Referee from the 3rd JD: appointed by the Judge to preside over mediation

Judicial Hearing Officer (JHO): appointed by the Judge to preside over Mediation or a settlement conference

Appointment of a Judge, other than the Assigned Judge, to preside over a settlement conference

Settlement conference before the Assigned Judge

Arbitration: a private arbitrator paid for by the parties

Process: It is up to the parties to reach an agreement on the specific type of ADR to be utilized. If the parties fail to reach an agreement, the Court will designate an appropriate court sponsored form of ADR. For example: The Court frequently appoints a Court Attorney Referee in the 3rd JD by signing an Order making that appointment. Within 45 days a conference will be scheduled by the Court Attorney Referee in consultation with the parties. The Court Attorney Referee then provides updates to the Court on the progress that is being made in resolving the case.

3. Greene County Matrimonial Resolution Part (MRP)

Cases eligible: all contested matrimonials

Cases exempted:

a. Where an Order of Protection has been issued.

b. Family Offense petition filed

c. Case part of the Integrated Domestic Violence Court

Type of ADR//Mediation:

All contested matrimonials, that have been screened to be appropriate, will be referred to a Court Attorney-Referee from the 3rd Judicial District Office for resolution or narrowing of issues. Conferences will be held within 30 days of the filing of an RJI and will serve as the Preliminary Conference. The parties and their counsel will be notified of when to appear and what documents to provide prior to the conference. Cases not resolved in the MRP will be released for further proceedings before the assigned Judge. Parties can also choose, at their own expense, either a Neutral from the 3rd Judicial District’s approved Roster or a private Neutral of their choosing

4. Rensselaer County Supreme Court Issue Resolution Conference Part (IRC)

Cases eligible: all contested matrimonials

Type of ADR/Process:Settlement Conference/Mediation

Settlement Conference: All contested matrimonials, that have been screened to be appropriate, will be referred to a Court Attorney Referee from the 3rd Judicial District Office for resolution or narrowing of issues. Conferences will be held within 30 days of the filing of an RJI and will serve as the Preliminary Conference. Supreme Court Clerk’s Office will notify parties and counsel when to appear and what documents to provide prior to the conference. Cases not resolved in the IRC part will be released for further proceedings before the assigned Judge. Parties can also choose, at their own expense, either a Neutral from the 3rd Judicial District’s approved Roster or a private Neutral of their choosing.

5. Ulster County Supreme Court-Early Settlement Program (ESP)

Cases eligible: all contested matrimonials

Type of ADR/Process:Mediation/Settlement Conference

Court Clerk will screen a case to determine whether it is eligible to be referred to the ESP. If appropriate, the Court Clerk will assign the case to both a Judge and to the ESP within 30 days after the filing of an RJI. A Court Attorney-Referee from the 3rd Judicial District Office will schedule the mediation session/settlement conference with the parties and/or their counsel. The parties and their counsel will be notified of when to appear and what documents to provide prior to the mediation/conference. If a case is not resolved in the ESP, it will be released back to the assigned Judge for further proceedings. Parties can also choose, at their own expense, either a Neutral from the 3rd Judicial District’s approved Roster or a private Neutral of their choosing.

6. Columbia County Supreme Court Part

Cases eligible: All Supreme Court matters including contested matrimonials, personal injury, real property disputes and commercial/business disputes.

Type of ADR/Process: Mediation/Settlement Conference.

At the Preliminary Conference, the Court will evaluate whether the matter is appropriate for mediation/settlement conference. If so, the Court will direct the parties to engage in ADR and refer the matter to a Court Attorney-Referee in the 3rd Judicial District Office. If a case is not resolved through ADR, it will be released back to the assigned Judge for further proceedings. Parties can also choose, at their own expense, either a Neutral from the 3rd Judicial District’s approved Roster or a private Neutral of their choosing.

7. Sullivan County Supreme Court Part

Cases eligible: All Supreme Court matters including contested matrimonials, personal injury, real property disputes and commercial/business disputes.

Type of ADR/Process: Mediation/Settlement Conference.

At the Preliminary Conference, the Court will evaluate whether the matter is appropriate for mediation/settlement conference. If so, the Court will direct the parties to engage in ADR and refer the matter to a Court Attorney-Referee in the 3rd Judicial District Office. If a case is not resolved through ADR, it will be released back to the assigned Judge for further proceedings. Parties can also choose, at their own expense, either a Neutral from the 3rd Judicial District’s approved Roster or a private Neutral of their choosing.

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PARTICIPATION/OPTING OUT OF ADR

Parties are strongly encouraged to attend all ADR sessions but may opt out of ADR at any time. The Neutral has the discretion to allow remote participation in ADR when available and appropriate. Parties are strongly encouraged to participate in ADR sessions with counsel. However, the Court may allow parties to opt out of one or more types of ADR, including mediation, in situations where:

a. Participation could jeopardize a person’s health or safety

b. A party may be a victim of physical, emotional or other abuse by another party

c. A substantial power balance exists between the parties; or

d. Any other occasion where the Court, for good cause shown, concludes that ADR (including mediation) would be imprudent.

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WHAT IF I NEED AN INTERPRETER?

The New York State court system provides foreign language interpreters and sign interpreters for non-English speaking persons and those who are hearing impaired, free of charge, to ensure that all parties can clearly understand the proceedings and are able to effectively participate in all forms of ADR.

 

STATEMENT ABOUT FEE STRUCTURE FOR BOTH THE NEUTRAL AND THE PARTIES

The Court itself does not charge or administer fees for ADR. When the Court refers an ADR eligible case to a Court Attorney Referee from the 3rd Judicial District Office, there is no fee for the parties. If the parties choose to retain a Neutral off the court’s roster of approved Neutrals, then the following fee structure will apply.

Court roster Neutrals shall not be compensated for preparation time or administrative tasks. Unless otherwise agreed to by the parties, the Neutral shall bill, starting with the initial ADR session, at an hourly rate of no more than $350.00/hr. for their services. The Neutrals fees shall be divided equally among all separately represented parties, unless otherwise agreed to by the parties or ordered by the Court. For example, a person granted “poor person” status by the Court would not have to contribute to the Neutrals fees. When a case is co-mediated by two Court Roster Neutrals, the Neutrals shall split the set hourly rate. Court roster Neutrals can assist in a broad range of cases including matrimonials, personal injury cases, commercial claims and estate matters.
 

Becoming a member of the Roster of Neutrals

If you would like to apply to be a Neutral on the Roster for the 3rd Judicial District, please complete the attached application and submit to the ADR Coordinator for the 3rd Judicial District. Applications are subject to the approval of the ADR Coordinator as well as the Administrative Judge of the 3rd Judicial District.

 

STATEWIDE MEDIATOR DIRECTORY

To assist court users with locating a mediator that might be appropriate for their case, we have created the Statewide Mediator Directory, which lists mediators who are approved to mediate in courts throughout New York State.  That directory can be accessed by selecting the hyperlink above.

 

ADR Dedicated Court Staff
Jessica Mocerine, Esq.
Court Attorney Referee
3rd Judicial District
2500 Pond View, Suite 210
Castleton-on-Hudson 12033
jmocerin@nycourts.gov

Process/Types of Cases     
Settlement Conferencing/Civil Supreme
Matrimonial cases in Rensselaer County

David Wukitsch, Esq.
Court Attorney Referee
3rd Judicial District
2500 Pond View, Suite 210
Castleton-on-Hudson 12033
Dwukits1@nycourts.gov

Mediation/Civil Supreme
Commercial Division in Albany County,
employment litigation,
contract cases and real estate cases

Jill Swingruber-Sprotbery, Esq.
Court Attorney Referee
3rd Judicial District
2500 Pond View, Suite 210
Castleton-on-Hudson 12033
Jswingru@nycourts.gov

Mediation/Settlement Conferencing
Civil/Supreme

Nancy Shulman, Esq.
Court Attorney Referee
3rd Judicial District
2500 Pond View, Suite 210
Castleton-on-Hudson 12033
Nschulma@nycourts.gov

Mediation/Settlement Conferencing
Civil/Supreme

Laura Deitz, Esq.
Court Attorney Referee
3rd Judicial District
2500 Pond View, Suite 210
Castleton-on-Hudson 12033
ldeitz@nycourts.gov

Mediation/Settlement Conferencing in
Civil/Supreme in Albany County.

Matthew Lerner, Esq.
Court Attorney Referee
3rd Judicial District
2500 Pond View, Suite 210
Castleton-on-Hudson 12033
mlerner@nycourts.gov

Mediation/Settlement Conferencing
in Ulster County.

David Galalis, Esq.
Court Attorney Referee
3rd Judicial District
2500 Pond View, Suite 210
Castleton-on-Hudson 12033
dgalalis@nycourts.gov

Mediation/Settlement Conferencing
in Sullivan County.

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