Maryland Judiciary’s New Appellate Mediation Program Ranks among Top in Nation
(ANNAPOLIS – Sept. 27, 2012) Although it’s one of the youngest in the nation, Maryland’s fledgling appellate mediation program ranks among the top three in the United States. That’s the conclusion of an independent report by C-DRUM, the Center for Dispute Resolution at the University of Maryland law school.
Mediation helps litigants resolve issues without going to court. While mediation has been provided in Maryland’s trial courts for more than a decade, the Court of Special Appeals’ mediation program is just a little more than two years old. It started as a pilot in March 2010 to reduce the cost and time for appeals, improve outcomes for litigants, prevent multiple appeals in the same case, and ease the Court of Special Appeals’ heavy caseload. The pilot proved to be very successful and mediation was made a formal part of the appellate process this summer.
Earlier this year, the Court of Special Appeals mediation program staff conducted an extensive survey of all known state appellate mediation programs to get more information about how other programs operate. They identified 56 state appellate mediation programs in 31 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They asked about the number of mediations begun each year and the number of cases settled through mediation, as well as the size of the programs and number of years in operation. The court then asked C-DRUM to independently analyze the information gathered from the 39 programs that responded to the survey.
In its report, issued Sept. 11, 2012, C-DRUM noted, “in two short years, Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals has developed a robust appellate mediation program that maintains a settlement rate above the national average and, based upon settlement rates, is among the top ten programs in the nation.” The report also noted that Maryland’s appellate mediation program ranks third when compared to similar programs that conduct more than 100 mediations per year and are less than five years old.
“This program benefits all Marylanders by improving outcomes, increasing the Court’s efficiency, reducing the time and cost involved in lengthy appeals and, in general, improving access to justice.” said Chief Judge Peter B. Krauser of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. “Likewise, it helps individual litigants by providing them with the opportunity to devise solutions of their own accord. Because parties in mediation determine the future of their own controversy, mediated agreements have shown to be more sustainable than court-mandated resolutions.”
The Court of Special Appeals hears about 1,300 civil appeals each year, and about 10-15 percent are sent to mediation, with about 60 percent fully resolved through the mediation process. Cases that are not automatically screened for mediation include: juvenile cases; appeals from guardianships terminating parental rights (TPR); and applications and appeals by prisoners seeking relief related to their confinement.
The mediation program is part of a newly formed Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Division in the Court of Special Appeals. Mala Malhotra-Ortiz, Esq., is director, and Tara K. Lehner, Esq., is deputy director. The office administers all ADR programs for the Court of Special Appeals, including mediation and prehearing conferences.
The Court of Special Appeals ADR Division website has more information, details about how the mediation process works, and links to the C-DRUM report, as well as forms and a brochure that people can print:
# # #