Mediation & Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Contra Costa County Superior Court Program.

The Congress of Neutrals provides mediation services in small claims, unlawful detainer and civil harassment cases throughout Contra Costa County. Participation in these mediations, which are held on the day of trial in all four of the local branch courts (Concord, Pittsburg, Richmond and Walnut Creek), is free of charge, voluntary and confidential.

In 2009, we began a pilot program to provide small claims litigants with the opportunity to participate in a telephone mediation on an agreed upon date prior to the date of trial. To learn more about telephone mediation, click here.

Since the programís inception in 2001, the number of mediations we have performed for the court on an annual basis has increased dramatically, and in 2007, we provided a total of 848 mediations. The Congress also has a mentoring program for new mediators which provides them with volunteer mediation opportunities at the court under the supervision of experienced staff through our Mediation Mentoring Program (MMP).


Other Alternative Dispute Resolution Services.

In addition to serving as mediators in the Contra Costa County Superior Court Program, many of our panelists are available to conduct private mediations and other alternative dispute resolution services in many types of cases, including homeowner association, landlord-tenant, competing businesses, neighborhood, elder and family disputes.

Fees are negotiable and services are often available at community rates. Our panelists are highly experienced and offer a full spectrum of alternative dispute resolution services, including the following:

Please contact us for more information about our various alternative dispute resolution services. For a complete listing of our panelists, click here.


Mediation

In mediation, a trained and impartial person, called a mediator, meets with you and the other side in a private meeting. Mediations are confidential and can be scheduled at a time and place convenient to both sides. Unlike an arbitrator, a mediator has no power to “decide” anything. Rather, the mediator’s goal is to help the parties involved reach an agreement they can all accept. If the parties decide to settle, the terms of the settlement are written up in a settlement agreement. A settlement agreement made in writing and signed by the parties is binding, and it usually states that if there is a breach of the agreement, any party may apply to the court (by a motion) to enforce the settlement agreement.

Since the program's inception in 2001, the number of mediations we have performed for the court on an annual basis has increased dramatically, and in 2007, we provided a total of 848 mediations.

We currently conduct mediations in small claims, unlawful detainer and civil harassment cases. Participation in these mediations, which are held on the day of trial in all four of the local branch courts (Concord, Pittsburg, Richmond and Walnut Creek), is free of charge, voluntary and confidential.

In 2009, we began a pilot program to provide litigants with the opportunity to participate in a telephone mediation on an agreed upon date prior to the date of trial.

Find out how mediation works.


Arbitration

Arbitration is an extrajudicial adversarial process which usually results in an award which is final and binding. However, it is distinguishable from litigation in that the arbitrator derives his or her authority to resolve the dispute from the parties themselves, usually through a contractual arbitration clause. In arbitration, the parties determine by agreement such matters as how the arbitrator will be selected, the location of the arbitration and the procedural rules which will govern the process.


Neutral Assessment

In neutral assessment, an experienced person is asked to give an opinion about the dispute. The neutral “assessor” is often an attorney who has practiced law in similar types of cases. The neutral assessor can give an expert opinion on issues relating to liability and/or damages; however, the neutral assessor’s opinion is not binding upon the parties. The neutral assessor helps each of the parties better understand the dispute, and this can lead the parties to enter into a negotiated settlement agreement. On the other hand, if the parties decide to proceed to trial, the neutral assessment can help clarify the issues, identify problems in the parties’ respective cases, and assist the parties in preparing for trial. The neutral assessor’s opinion is confidential, and he or she cannot be used as an expert at trial.

Please see more information about how neutral assessment works.


Neutral Fact Finding

Neutral fact finding is a conflict resolution method in which an unbiased and objective person is used to investigate and settle a factual dispute. The neutral person is often an expert in the field at issue and has no bias or other stake in the outcome. Neutral fact finding is often used to resolve disputes which arise in the employment context.


Conciliation

Conciliation simply describes the process in which a neutral person endeavors to improve communication between two (or more) parties who are in conflict. The goal is to clarify misunderstandings and to improve the level of trust between the parties as a means of laying the groundwork for settlement of the dispute. Conciliation may occur as part of a mediation or it may occur separately.