Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

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Director of Court Programs and Services
Magda Lopez
(925) 957-5787
(925) 957-5689 Fax

There are many ways to settle disputes without going to trial. ADR stands for Alternative Dispute Resolution. It refers to processes that are “alternatives” to having a trial to resolve your dispute. Mediation is the leading alternative, but arbitration and neutral case evaluation are also common options. Different ADR processes are designed for different disputes, or different phases of the same dispute, and provide different results. You can choose the process that will best meet your objectives. Here are some specific suggestions for each process offered by the Contra Costa County Superior Court:

You may choose mediation because you want to maintain control of the outcome of your dispute, but are having trouble speaking to the other side. You may also choose mediation because there is a relationship you wish to preserve. For example, to keep a business relationship with a customer, or an employee might choose mediation to resolve a dispute with an employer because they do not wish to look for a new job. A mediator will work with both sides, together and separately, trying to help you reach resolution.

Judicial Arbitration (Non-binding)
You may choose non-binding arbitration because you would like to have a neutral decision-maker hear your case, while maintaining the right to go to trial. The arbitrator will review evidence and arguments very much like a trial and will make a decision (award). An arbitrator’s award can be helpful to parties who are disagreeing about liability or the law. Once you have received an award from the arbitrator you can decide whether to accept or reject the award. If you decide to reject the award, you can file for a new trial (Trial de Novo). While the arbitrator will not help you communicate or negotiate, you can negotiate your own agreement outside of the arbitration, go to a mediator for assistance, or proceed with a trial.

Neutral Case Evaluation
A neutral evaluator gives an independent opinion about what would happen if the case went to trial, and can provide all parties with important feedback regarding the weaknesses and strengths of their case.  The evaluator does not facilitate agreement discussions or decide who is right or wrong. After the case evaluation, you can use the information you learned to settle the case or enter a different ADR process such as mediation. Some parties find a neutral case evaluation particularly helpful in assessing personal injury damages or the extent of business losses.

Settlement Mentor
An experienced lawyer selected by the ADR Program at the request of the Judge will help parties, before the scheduled trial or settlement conference, explore ways to settle their case. If settlement is not possible, the scheduled trial or conference will begin, often on the same day or soon after. A settlement mentor can help parties assess the risks they face in going to trial. The settlement mentor conference is not confidential, and your mentor can share information with the judge.  

You can also consider private ADR: 

Private binding or non-binding arbitration

Private Mediation


IMPORTANT!  Our panel members have agreed to provide certain ADR services at a reduced rate only when it is referred by a judge, or the parties have asked for ADR in a stipulation. If you go through the ADR program to set up the mediation, arbitration, or neutral case evaluation part of your court case, the office will send the panel member a Notice of Appointment. If the panel member does not have a Notice of Appointment from this office because it is not a court-connected case, the panel member is entitled to charge their regular fees for these services.



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