Supreme Judicial Court Rule 1:18 encompasses the Uniform Rules on Dispute Resolution ("Rules"). The Rules govern court-connected dispute resolution services provided in civil and criminal cases in the Commonwealth's trial courts. One of the express purposes of the Rules is to "foster innovation" in the delivery of court-connected dispute resolution services. Conciliation is an alternative dispute resolution process offered in many of the Commonwealth's Probate & Family Courts, and in some District and Superior Courts.
Testimony by videoconference in international arbitration offers the disputants both a fair means for assuring that relevant evidence is heard and an effective tool for cost reduction.
I recently returned from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Arbitration Training Institute as a Certified Family Law Arbitrator. A few words about family law arbitration: Arbitration falls within the category of alternative dispute resolution ("ADR"). It can be a very helpful tool to resolve family conflict. Contested litigation is the traditional method to resolve legal disputes arising from family law matters, but contested litigation can be a time consuming and expensive process. As a result of the frustration and expense that many have experienced from being engaged in contested family law litigation, there has been a push in recent years to resolve family law matters through various ADR procedures, such as mediation, conciliation, and arbitration.
One of the many advantages of arbitration over litigation is that the parties to a dispute have the opportunity to choose the arbitrator or arbitrators who will decide their claims. The selection of an arbitrator is a critical decision point that necessarily occurs very early in the arbitral process. The stakes are high since an arbitrator's award is very difficult -- some say nearly impossible -- to have vacated. Choosing an arbitrator who is well suited to your case requires careful consideration of many factors, several of which are set out below.
In yet another decision that underscores the "elemental tenet" of arbitration that a party cannot be compelled to arbitrate if he or she has not agreed to arbitrate, the Massachusetts Appeals Court recently ruled that a non-signatory to an agreement cannot be compelled by a signatory to arbitrate a dispute that the non-signatory did not agree to arbitrate.
The dispute resolution clause in commercial contracts is very often inserted at the last minute without much attention given to the implications of the particular language contained in the clause. It is increasingly common to see "stepped" dispute resolution clauses, whereby the parties agree to mediate disputes arising under the contract and, if mediation fails to resolve the dispute, to arbitrate. The popularity of stepped clauses is due in part to the fact that they make a quick, inexpensive resolution possible through mediation, but provide arbitration as a fallback mechanism for dispute resolution. While wholly reasonable on their face, stepped dispute resolution clauses can have surprising consequences when a business relationship sours.