Alternative Dispute Resolution Program

Alternative Dispute Resolution refers to ways of settling civil disputes outside the courtroom.

This generally means arbitration and mediation courses selected by opposing parties in disagreement who would rather avoid crowded dockets, potentially higher costs, and drawn-out litigation.

Arbitration is a simplified version of a trial. A dispute is submitted to a third party for a decision, which may be binding or non-binding (advisory). In either case, the arbitrator a neutral person or panel of neutral persons hears each side's presentation of evidence and arguments, then makes a determination in favor of one or the other. The disputing parties must agree in advance that the arbitrator's decision (typically an award) is final. And, unlike arbitration through the courts, ADR programs can arbitrate cases involving any amount of money in question.

Mediation is a process for resolving disputes with the aid of a neutral person, in this case an attorney trained in negotiation. The mediator's role involves identifying the issues in question, and exploring and negotiating settlement options by meeting with each party privately or both sides collectively in the same room. (All information is held in confidence by the mediator.)

It is not the mediator's job to decide the outcome; the parties in the dispute and their counsel must agree to any resolution. Mediation is an even less formal alternative to litigation than arbitration, as agreements approved by either party or counsel are not binding.

Mediators and Arbitrators






What Is The Berks County Bar Association Alternative Dispute Resolution Program?

The program is administered by the Berks County Bar Association and intended to offer mediation and arbitration services as a more efficient means of resolving certain disputes without costly and time consuming litigation.

What Kind Of Cases Are Eligible?

All civil actions except cases involving divorce, equitable distribution, custody, child or spousal support, alimony, alimony pendent lite or paternity are eligible.

What Is The Difference Between Arbitration And Mediation?

Mediation is essentially a settlement discussion involving the parties, their counsel, and a neutral third party who is trained in the facilitation of and assistance with settlement negotiations. The mediator does not make any decision for the parties or value the case unless the parties agree otherwise. Information revealed in the course of mediation is held in confidence by the mediator, subject to the Pennsylvania Mediator Privilege Statute. Mediation offers a less structured way for the parties to explore and negotiate multiple settlement options with the assistance of a specially trained mediator. With mediation there is no binding decision. Any resolutions reached through mediation must be agreed to by the parties and their counsel. Arbitration involves a more structured format, leading to a binding decision by the arbitrator. Arbitration is conducted in accordance with the Revised Statutory Arbitration Act. However, there are numerous options available to the parties concerning limits on any awards entered by the arbitrator. In fact, the parties are free to set any mutually agreeable limits.

What Are The Benefits Of The Berks County Bar Association Civil Dispute Resolution Program Over Mandatory Arbitration In The Court Of Common Pleas?

Because of the automatic right of appeal in mandatory court arbitration, statistics show that up to 60% of the decisions rendered in mandatory arbitration are appealed. In contrast, the Bar Association Arbitration Program Rules track the Revised Statutory Arbitration Act, which has some limits on appeal. Unlike court arbitration, this program can arbitrate cases involving any amount of money in controversy.

Do The Parties Participate In Selection Of The Arbitrator/Mediator?

Absolutely. The Berks County Bar Association has a list of approved arbitrators/mediators. The parties may, within 20 days from the date they submit the arbitration/mediation agreement, select the name of a mutually agreeable arbitrator/mediator and provide that name to the Bar Association. If the parties are unable or unwilling to select an arbitrator/mediator within 20 days, the Association will make a random rolling assignment of one of the arbitrators/mediators from the approved list. A list of the arbitrators and mediators who are certified and approved by the Berks County Bar Association is available from the Bar Association.

Where Is The Arbitration/Mediation Conducted?

It can be conducted at the Bar Association, at the arbitrator/mediator’s office, or at any location which is agreeable to the parties and the arbitrator/mediator.

Is The Berks County Alternative Dispute Resolution Program Supported By The Berks County Bench?

Yes. The Berks County Bench has endorsed the program’s mission to offer services designed to assist litigants and potential litigants with resolution of disputes.

Must A Case Be Pending In The Court In Order To Be Eligible For Mediation Or Arbitration?

No. In fact, in many instances, mediation and/or arbitration can assist parties in resolving a dispute before a complaint is even filed.

How Is A Request To Arbitrate/Mediate Processed?

The parties seeking to submit a dispute for arbitration/mediation need to complete a Request Form and submit it to the Berks County Bar Association, along with a fee in the amount of $1,300.00. A request to arbitrate/mediate must represent that all parties to the action view the arbitration/mediation as a potential aid to the resolution of their dispute.

How Much Does Mediation/Arbitration Cost?

The initial cost is $1,300.00. Of that amount, a $325.00 Administrative Fee paid to the Bar Association is nonrefundable. The $975.00 initial mediator/arbitrator fee is only refundable up to the point in time when a mediator/arbitrator has been appointed. The initial $975.00 covers the first three (3) hours of the mediator’s/arbitrator’s time. In the event the three (3) hours are exceeded, the parties agree to bear equally an hourly fee for the mediation/arbitration in the amount of $325.00 per hour.

Absent a written agreement to the contrary, the parties will be responsible for an equal share of the fees and expenses of the mediator/arbitrator.

If this information does not answer all of your questions, please do not hesitate to call or contact the Bar Association office at 610-375-4591.

family with forclosed house

Foreclosure Mediation Program

The Berks County Bar Association, in conjunction with the Berks County Courts and Neighborhood Housing Services, have created a program by which those threatened with the loss of their home can seek relief. Those served with a complaint in a consumer debt or home mortgage case may take advantage of the program.