Dorothy Secol, CLA
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Over 25 years ago, the late Justice Robert N. Wilentz created a task force to study deficiencies in the litigation system. This task force eventually became the Supreme Court Committee on Complementary Dispute Resolution.

On July 14, 1992 N.J.S.A. 1:40-3 was adopted, effective September 1, 1992 whereby pursuant to Supreme Court guidelines, the Assignment Judge in each vicinage shall appoint a Vicinage Complementary Dispute Resolution Advisory Committee to assist in the development and oversight of the CDR programs. The Administrative Director of the Courts shall provide assistance to the vicinage in their development and implementation of the CDR programs. Today there are mediation programs which include Civil, General Equity, Matrimonial and Probate as well as Municipal Court mediation for those complaints which the municipal court judges feel can be mediated rather than tried in open court.

Whether it is called alternative dispute resolution, complimentary dispute resolution, private dispute resolution or court-annexed dispute resolution, the important aspect is that it is not litigation, but resolution of a problem solved by the participants with the aid of a trained mediator.

ADR, in whatever form it takes, has the opportunity to greatly reduce the lengthy delays and costly expense brought about by litigation. The use of a mediator in many instances has the potential to eliminate duplicate expert reports and discovery while seeking out a solution and fact finding process to the problem. There are substantial fees to be saved through the process of ADR as opposed to going to trial. 

In order for ADR to be effective, it behooves each attorney to become familiar with these alternatives to litigation and to inform their clients of the choices they have. There are many mediators who can help in any given area of law. The appointment of mediators as well as the conduct of the proceedings are mandated by N.J.S.A. 1:404-10. There are trained mediators for custody and visitation, trained in Family Mediation; municipal court mediators who are specifically trained; mediators trained to mediate Bankruptcy matters as well as general mediation training required by N.J.S.A. 1:40-10 (3.2).

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