Alternative Dispute Resolution for the 3rd JD

ADR Programs by court type:

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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 and settlement conferencing.  All civil actions or proceedings heard in the Supreme Court, Family Court, Surrogate’s Court and City Court shall be 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.

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ADR

ADR CONTACT INFORMATION

3rd Judicial District

Hon. Gerald W. Connolly, Administrative Judge

Counties served: 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

518-285-8300
 

Presumptive ADR

In a presumptive Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) referral model, parties are referred early on to utilize a form of ADR such as mediation, arbitration, neutral evaluation or settlement conferencing. However, a referral can occur at any stage in a case and should  be done early in the court process before costs rise and positions harden.  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  an assessment of case appropriateness for ADR as well as ensuring party safety.  

Who conducts the ADR Process:  

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. ADR can also include mediation with a Court Roster Mediator, a Court Attorney-Referee or mediation through a local Community Dispute Resolution Center (CDRC).

Call for Mediators

The 3rd Judicial District serves a wide variety of litigants, including persons of varying age, race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability, religion, socioeconomic and family status. The District’s multiple Mediation Programs recognize that neutrals with a wide variety of cultural and life experiences enrich the Alternate Dispute Resolution process by bringing diverse perspectives to resolving disputes. To accomplish these goals, it is important that the 3rd JD Mediation Roster program attracts and retains Mediators who represent a range of personal and professional backgrounds who can, thereby, better serve and instill confidence in participants in the ADR process. To that end, qualified applicants of all diverse backgrounds and experiences are encouraged to apply for admission to the Mediation Roster in the 3rd JD.  

If you would like to apply, please see the Mediator Requirements below and complete the application.  

Universal Application Form

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Mediator Requirements

The Administrative Judge shall establish, and the ADR Coordinator shall maintain, a roster of trained mediators ("The Roster") for the Program which shall be available on the Court website. To be eligible to join the Roster as a Mediator, a person shall satisfy the training and experience requirements of Part 146 of the Rules of the Chief Administrative Judge as follows:

Part 146 Rules

Fulfillment of these requirements does not guarantee acceptance onto the Roster. Final placement on a Roster, or continuation on a Roster, is in the discretion of the ADR Coordinator and District Administrative Judge under Part 146 of the Rules of the Chief Administrator.

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.

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. Arbitration may be binding or non-binding, which depends on either an agreement between the parties or any applicable law in this area. In binding arbitration, parties agree to accept the arbitrator’s decision as final. In non-binding 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.

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. 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.

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, 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.

Community Dispute Resolution Center (CDRC):

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 have yet to be filed in court. Many CDRCs offer virtual mediation. In the 3rd JD, our CDRC's primarily handle mediations related to family court cases, small claims disputes and sometimes in Surrogates Court.  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: Community Dispute Resolution Center

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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 the 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 to be conducted by the CDRC that serves that County.  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 or to a Roster Mediator. Cases involving self-represented litigants, small estates or cases driven by complex family dynamics will be referred to the CDRC serving that County (see list below). 

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

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ALL SUPREME COURTS IN THE 3RD JUDICIAL DISTRICT

What cases are eligible:  All Supreme Court matters including contested matrimonials, personal injury, property disputes and commercial/business disputes.
 

Cases exempted from ADR: 

a. Article 78 proceedings

b. Article 81-Guardianship cases

c. Child Victim Act cases

d. Foreclosure actions

e. Tax Certiorari cases
 

Type of ADR: Mediation, Settlement Conference

Process:  At the Preliminary Conference, or thereafter, the Judge will evaluate whether the matter is appropriate for mediation or a settlement conference. If so, the Judge will direct the parties to engage in ADR and refer the matter to either a Court Attorney-Referee in the 3rd Judicial District Office or a Mediator from the 3rd Judicial District’s approved Roster of Mediators.  Cases not resolved through ADR, or assessed to be not appropriate for ADR,  will be released for further proceedings before the assigned Judge.

 

Specialized ADR Programs in the 3rd JD:  

1. Albany County Supreme Court: Commercial Division

Type of ADR: 

A. Mediation:  Judge appoints a Mediator from an approved rostera private mediator at the parties expense or a Court Attorney-Referee from the 3rd Judicial District Office.  

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

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

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

E. Settlement conference before the Assigned Judge.

F. 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 form of ADR. For example: The Court can appoint a Court Attorney-Referee in the 3rd JD to conduct Mediation by signing an Order making that appointment. Within 60 days a Mediation 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.

2. Greene County Matrimonial Resolution Part (MRP)

What cases are eligible: all contested matrimonials

Cases exempted from ADR:

a. Where an Order of Protection has been issued or where there is a history of Intimate Partner Violence.  

b. Where a Family Offense petition is pending.

c. Cases part of the Integrated Domestic Violence Court
 

Who conducts the ADR: a Court Attorney-Referee

 

Type of ADR: Mediation, Settlement Conference

Process:  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 continue to be conferenced by a Court Attorney-Referee or be released for further proceedings before the assigned Judge. 

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

What cases are eligible: all contested matrimonials where both parties are represented by attorneys. 

Cases exempted from ADR: 

a. Where an Order of Protection has been issued or where there is a history of Intimate Partner Violence.  

b. Where a Family Offense petition is pending.

c. Cases part of the Integrated Domestic Violence Court
 

Who conducts the ADR: a Court Attorney-Referee 

Type of ADR: Mediation, Settlement Conference

Process:  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.

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

What cases are eligible: all contested matrimonials in which there is either 1 or 2 self-represented litigants.

Cases exempted from ADR: 

a. Where an Order of Protection has been issued or where there is a history of Intimate Partner Violence.  

b. Where a Family Offense petition is pending.

c. Cases part of the Integrated Domestic Violence Court
 

Who conducts the ADR: a Court Attorney-Referee

Type of ADR: Mediation, Settlement Conference

Process:  Within 5 days after a party files an RJI, the Court Clerk will evaluate whether the case is appropriate for the ESP.  If so, the Clerk will refer the matter to a Court Attorney-Referee in the 3rd Judicial District Office. The parties, and their counsel if applicable, will be notified of when to appear and what documents to provide prior to the initial resolution session which will also serve as the Preliminary Conference Cases not resolved through the ESP will be released for further proceedings before the assigned Judge.

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ROSTER RULES & FORMS

3JD Roster Rules

3JD Mediation Fee Agreement

3JD Mediation Order of Reference

3JD Mediation Participant Statement of Understanding

3JD Report of Mediator Form

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PARTICIPATION/OPTING OUT OF ADR

The Mediator has the discretion to allow remote participation in ADR when available and appropriate. Parties are strongly encouraged to attend all ADR sessions, with counsel if applicable, but may opt out of ADR at any time.  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 MEDIATOR 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 would like to utilize a Mediator from the court’s Roster of approved Mediators, then the following fee structure will apply.

Court Roster Mediators shall not be compensated for preparation time or administrative tasks leading up to the first mediation session.  In addition, the initial 90 minutes of the first mediation session shall also be free.  Thereafter, if the parties choose to continue with mediation, they  can bill at a rate of no more than $350.00/hr. for their services. The Mediators fee 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 Mediators fee. When a case is co-mediated by two Court Roster Mediators, they shall split the set hourly rate. If your case is referred to a Community Dispute Resolution Center (CDRC) they may charge a small administrative fee but this can sometimes be waived by the CDRC.  
 


 

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Right to Counsel/Right to Assigned Counsel: Parties have a right to have an attorney present with them during any ADR process.  Attorneys are strongly encouraged to prepare clients for ADR sessions and assist with drafting agreements. Parties do not need to agree to anything in ADR without first speaking with an attorney. Whether you are entitled to assigned counsel is based on case type, your income, and ultimately up to the assigned Judge.  

Who Can attend? When parties have attorneys, some forms of ADR, like a settlement conference, might involve only involve attorneys . If the litigants wish to participate in ADR they are always welcome to do so.  

Litigants can always ask to stop the ADR session so they have time to talk to consult with an attorney.

ADR can be very flexible and customized. There are many ways that other people, who are not litigants in the case could also be invited to participate in an ADR session as long as everyone agrees.  

When will my case get referred for ADR? Parties may be referred at any time to ADR but one of the goals of the Presumptive ADR Program is to refer cases earlier rather than later in order to limit financial and emotional costs and reduce court congestion. This might mean that your case could be referred to some type of ADR at the preliminary conference or before extensive discovery takes place. Each court makes this determination based on the case type and the resources available.

What notice will I receive? Some courts have begun to notify parties that they are to attend an ADR session by a written order; other courts are orally directing parties to mediation or some other form of ADR and sometimes your local Community Dispute Resolution Center may reach out to you by email or phone at the request of the court. Again, this determination is made by each court based on case type and the resources available.

Whom do I contact with questions? You can always contact the 3rd JD ADR Coordinator.  Parties can also contact their attorney, if any; or the Judges chambers that referred the matter to mediation.

How Is Language Access for those who do not feel comfortable working in English handled? Parties or their attorney, should notify their Attorney, if any, or the Court referring the matter to mediation, or notify the mediator. Parties may retain a private interpreter or use a service e.g. Language Line (www.languageline.com) (800) 752-6096).