This information applies to civil (non-family law) mediation. For Family Law click here.
Mediation is an informal dispute resolution process that is often faster, less expensive and less stressful than litigation and trial. In mediation, a neutral mediator works with the parties in a private office to help them resolve all or part of their dispute.
Mediators do not decide the outcome of the case and they do not make reports to the judge. Instead, mediators listen carefully to all parties and help them explore their real concerns, the strengths and weaknesses of their case, their options for resolving the case, and the risks, costs and benefits of trial vs. settlement. If the parties do not reach an agreement, the case proceeds toward trial.
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The Riverside County Superior Court offers mediation services to help parties resolve their general disputes as early in the process as appropriate.
Per Local Rule 3200, the Riverside County Superior Court expects all litigants to participate in some form of Alternative Dispute Resolution before requesting a trial date.
At the Case Management Conference held approximately 180 days after the case is filed, eligible parties are ordered to mediation or judicial arbitration, at no cost to the parties.
All others are strongly encouraged to participate in the voluntary ADR process of their choice, to be arranged and paid for privately.
The Riverside Superior Court participates in the Civil Action Mediation program (California Code of Civil Procedures, 1775, et seq.). This means that parties in most general civil cases valued at $50,000 or under may be ordered to judicial arbitration or court-ordered mediation.
Eligible case types for Court Ordered Mediation include personal injury, business, contracts, collections, employment, and certain real property matters. Case types that are not eligible include: probate, guardianship, conservatorship, family, custody and visitation, juvenile, small claims, small claim appeals, unlawful detainer, class actions, and certain civil petitions. However, these cases may be eligible for other mediation programs. For more information click on the case types.
How Are Cases Ordered to Court Ordered Mediation?
A judicial officer decides if a case is eligible and appropriate for Court-Ordered Mediation or mandatory judicial arbitration. This decision is usually made at the Case Management Conference (CMC) hearing, held about 180 days after the complaint is filed. The judicial officer will consider the Case Management Statements as well as information the parties present at the hearing. Therefore, in Case Management Statements and at the CMC hearing, parties should discuss their eligibility for court-ordered ADR, their preference for mediation or arbitration, and their proposed timelines for completing the process, considering the discovery and motions needed for the process to be meaningful and productive. Eligible parties who request Court-Ordered Mediation should be prepared to explain why mediation would be more effective than arbitration in their case. They should also be prepared to confirm that they will comply with all program requirements in return for receiving three (3) free hours of mediation from the court and the Civil Mediation Panel.
What Happens After My Case Is Ordered to Court-Ordered Mediation?
Parties ordered to mediation under Local Rule, Title 3, Division 2, will receive a Notice of Court-Ordered Mediation stating their mediation completion date, a proposed randomly selected Civil Mediation Panel Member, and their duties under the program. Failure to comply with this Order may result in an Order to Show Cause Hearing re: Sanctions for failure to complete mediation. Therefore, parties and their attorneys should read this notice very carefully and calendar all key dates. Parties will also receive a Response to Notice of Court-Ordered Mediation to stipulate to the mediator of their choice, should the parties wish to use a mediator other than the proposed randomly selected panel member listed on the Notice of Court-Ordered Mediation. This form must be filed with the court within 15 days of the Notice of Court-Ordered Mediation. If the Response is not timely filed, the previously identified randomly selected Civil Mediation Panel Member will be assigned to your case. Parties who need more time to complete the mediation must file the Stipulation and Order for Continuance of Court-Ordered Mediation Date. There is a $20 filing fee.
Canceling Court-Ordered Mediation Session
If the parties have scheduled a mediation session with a Civil Mediation Panel mediator, they must notify the mediator of cancellation immediately and in no case less than two (2) days before the time set for hearing. Parties who fail to do so must pay the mediator $150 or risk an OSC and sanctions. CRC 3.1385 (a); Local Rule 3230.
Court-Ordered Mediation: No cost for the first three (3) hours of mediation with a Civil Mediation Panel member. If the parties request additional time, the mediator may charge market or reduced rates, as agreed by the parties and the mediator. Private mediators may charge their market rates. The Court does not compensate private mediators for their services as private mediators.
When a case is ordered to Court Ordered Mediation, parties receive a Notice of Court Ordered Mediation, which includes the name of a randomly selected mediator from the Court’s panel. The parties are free to choose another mediator if they wish, by timely filing the Response to Notice of Court Ordered Mediation selecting either another panel mediator, or a private, non-panel mediator (the Court does not pay for non-panel mediators conducting Court Ordered Mediation).
The Court’s Civil Mediation Panel is available for court-ordered mediations; voluntary, private mediations; and mediations of disputes before the filing of a lawsuit.
All Civil Mediation Panel members are California attorneys who have met certain minimum qualifications and who are required to adhere to specific ethical standards. Each mediator provides a detailed profile describing his/her background, training, policies and practices. Panel members may accept any type of case and cases of any monetary value. As a generous service to the court and its civil litigants, panel members agree to accept a number of Court-Ordered Mediations at no charge to the parties for the first 3 hours of mediation. Panel mediators may bill the court $150 for the first three hours of court ordered mediation, and may charge parties market or reduced rates for additional time, as agreed upon between the mediator and the parties.
If parties do not select a mediator, the court will randomly assign a member of the Civil Mediation Panel to the case.
For voluntary, private mediations, panel mediators may charge parties market or reduced rates, without court involvement or contribution. Panel members who provide reduced rates describe their policies in their profiles.
Parties who select private, non-panel mediators for Court-Ordered Mediations do not receive free mediation services and must make their own arrangements to pay their mediator without contribution from the court. Parties are required to complete mediation by the ordered mediation completion date.
In most cases that are eligible for mandatory court-ordered ADR, the judicial officer will consider the parties’ preference for arbitration or mediation. Which process is more appropriate for your case?
Judicial Arbitration may be appropriate when the parties:
want to avoid a formal trial, but still want to present their evidence to a neutral person and have him/her decide the outcome of the case; and
do not have personal or emotional issues that must be worked out in order to resolve the dispute.
Judicial Arbitration is not appropriate when the parties:
want to keep control over the outcome by working out their own solution; or
want to improve communication with the other parties; or
do not want to risk going through both arbitration and trial.
Mediation may be appropriate when the parties:
want to avoid a formal public trial or informal arbitration hearing; or
want to work out a fair agreement but need help from a neutral person; or
want to have some control over the outcome of the case by working out their own solution; or
have communication problems or strong emotions that interfere with resolution; or
have a continuing business or personal relationship.
Mediation is not appropriate when the parties: want their public “day in court” or a judicial determination on points of law or fact; or
lack equal bargaining power (one party is more powerful) or have a history of physical/emotional abuse; or
are not willing or able to cooperate with each other and the mediator to schedule the session, prepare for the session or participate in the session in good faith and with an open mind.
What if the parties want to settle the case before the mediation session?
Settlement discussions are always encouraged. If the case fully settles, parties must immediately notify their mediator, and must do so no later than 2 days before the mediation session. Parties must also file a Notice of Settlement of Entire Case.
What if one party files for bankruptcy?
If there is only one defendant in the case and that defendant files for bankruptcy, the case is put on hold ("stayed"). The hearing cannot take place until the bankruptcy case is decided. If there is more than one defendant, sometimes the case will go forward with the participation of the remaining defendants. If the mediation cannot proceed due to a bankruptcy filing, the parties must immediately notify their mediator, and must do so no later than 2 days before the mediation session. The parties must also notify the Court.
How Do I Prepare for Mediation?
It is very important to prepare for a meaningful mediation session in these ways:
- Cooperate with your mediator’s requests concerning scheduling, pre-mediation phone calls, and Mediation Briefs and documents.
- Complete enough discovery (get the information you need) to make serious decisions at the mediation session. Parties are encouraged to exchange information informally, without formal discovery requests, when possible.
- Make sure that all necessary people attend the mediation.
- Complete any necessary motions before the mediation, or try to resolve or limit the need for such motions.
- Calculate the costs of further litigation and trial (include time off work for parties and witnesses; discovery; motions; attorneys’ fees; expert witness fees; court costs; jury fees).
- Consider: What do you hope to achieve in this case? What do you think the other parties hope to achieve?
- Consider: The risks and uncertainty of trial compared to the possible benefits of trial. What are the strengths and weaknesses of your case? What are the best/worst things about going to trial?
- Consider: The risks, costs and benefits of working out a settlement agreement during a free 3-hour mediation session.
- Write a settlement agreement that you think would be fair to all parties.
- If your mediation completion date does not give you enough time to prepare for your mediation, file the Stipulation and Order for Continuance of Court-Ordered Mediation Date. There is a $20 filing fee.