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Dispute Resolution and Arbitration
Alternative Dispute Resolution (adr): an overview


Alternative Dispute Resolution ("ADR") refers to any means of settling disputes outside of the courtroom. ADR typically includes arbitration, mediation, early neutral evaluation, and conciliation. As burgeoning court queues, rising costs of litigation, and time delays continue to plague litigants, more states have begun experimenting with ADR programs. Some of these programs are voluntary; others are mandatory.

The two most common forms of ADR are arbitration and mediation. Arbitration is a simplified version of a trial involving no discovery and simplified rules of evidence. Either both sides agree on one arbitrator, or each side selects one arbitrator and the two arbitrators elect the third to comprise a panel. Arbitration hearings usually last only a few hours and the opinions are not public record. Arbitration has long been used in labor, construction, and securities regulation, but is now gaining popularity in other business disputes.

Title 9 of the U.S. Code establishes Federal law supporting arbitration. It is based on Congress's plenary power over interstate commerce. Where it applies its terms prevail over state law. There are, however, numerous state laws on ADR. Thirty-five states have adopted the Uniform Arbitration Act as state law. Thus, the arbitration agreement and decision of the arbiter may be enforceable under state and federal law.

In 1970, the United States joined the UN Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.

Mediation is an even less formal alternative to litigation. Mediators are individuals trained in negotiations who bring opposing parties together and attempt to work out a settlement or agreement that both parties accept or reject. Mediation is used for a wide gamut of case-types: ranging from juvenile felonies to Federal government negotiations with Native American Indian tribes.


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