What Happens When a Case is Referred to Mediation in New York?
A look at the requirements in New York's Western and Northern DistrictsBy Andrew Brandt | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on July 7, 2023
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In the mid-’00s, in the Western District Federal Court in New York, Chief Judge William Skretny set forth a unique mediation program: civil cases filed within that court are referred to mediation.
“Originally, I was opposed to the very early period that the judge insisted that a case be mediated,” says Richard F. Griffin, a mediator in Buffalo. “Many cases are going to be too early—you need depositions and other information before the parties are able to evaluate their cases.”
Since then, Griffin has realized the benefits of mediation. “I’m a convert to the early mediation since it helps the parties focus and prepare and often avoids considerable expense and time delay.”
How the Mediation Program Works
The program proceeds as follows: At the time of filing a case, attorneys receive notification that the matter has been referred to mandatory mediation. The presiding judge sets deadlines during a scheduling conference, and the court has a panel of mediators to select from.
The mediation session generally consists of both sides and their attorneys gathering in a conference room. The mediator will first alert both parties of their role as a neutral third party and then make a brief opening statement.
The parties will then often split into two separate rooms and privately discuss their demands with the mediator—who goes back and forth between them. Everything said in mediation is confidential, and no participants may disclose information to anyone other than other participants.
Learn more about the steps of the mediation process.
What is the Goal of Mediation?
Mediation is intended to assist the parties to reach a settlement on a voluntary basis and avoid litigation delays and expenses.
“One of the reasons it’s here [is because] the Western District Court has been very short on judges and has a backlog of cases,” says Griffin. “In some instances, it can take over four years from the time you file a case until you can get a trial date.”
Griffin notes that approximately 125 cases per year get settled under the program, which is 45 percent of the mediated cases. “This success in the Northern District helped institute the program in the Western District of New York,” Griffin says.
“Compulsory arbitration has a bad connotation since most courts in the state of New York, as opposed to states like Florida, generally only have voluntary mediation programs,” he adds.
Finding an Experienced Mediator
Mediation is an alternative to the litigation process that can be used to resolve many civil actions, including family law cases (divorce, child custody, and child support); business, employment, and contract disputes; and real estate issues.
If you’re looking towards a trial date in the Western or Northern Districts of New York, be sure and reach out to an experienced mediator in your jurisdiction for legal advice.
For more information on this area of law, see our overview of alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
Additional Alternative Dispute Resolution articles
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