RULE 1. REFERRAL TO ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION (“ADR”)
(a) Except as hereinafter provided, any contested civil or domestic relation cases that are still pending after one hundred fifty (150) calendar days after the original complaint is filed shall be referred to ADR. Any domestic relation case in which domestic violence is an issue shall not be referred to ADR.
(b) Cases may, in the discretion of the Court, be referred to ADR prior to the mandatory one hundred fifty (150) day time period. The parties or their attorneys may also request the Court to have their case referred to ADR. A Court “ORDER” referring the case to ADR shall be executed by the presiding Judge. The original Order shall be filed in the case file in the office of the Clerk of Court making the referral. The Dispute Resolution Office shall be responsible for serving by mail a copy of said Order on the parties and counsel of record. Cases shall be screened by the presiding Judge to determine if the case is appropriate for ADR.
(c) The following actions shall be excluded from ADR:
(1) Appeals from rulings of administrative agencies;
(2) In Rem Condemnations;
(3) Habeas Corpus and extraordinary writs;
(4) Declaratory Judgments;
(5) URESA actions
RULE 2. TIMING OF ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROCESSES
(a) Within ten (10) calendar days after the case is referred to ADR, the parties shall inform the Dispute Resolution Office of the neutral mutually agreed upon by the parties. The neutral shall be selected from among the neutrals registered by the George Office of Dispute Resolution in the appropriate category. Absent agreement by the parties on the selection of the neutral, the process shall follow as herein provided by paragraph (b) of Rule 4.
(b) Within five (5) calendar days after the parties have notified the Dispute Resolution Office of the selected neutral, the selected neutral shall contact the parties and inform them of the date, time and place for the scheduled ADR session.
(c) Unless otherwise ordered by the Court, the ADR session shall be held within fifteen (15) calendar days after the parties have received notification from the selected neutral of the ADR session.
RULE 3. EXEMPTION FROM ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION
A party may, within ten (10) days after the case is referred to ADR, petition the Court to dispense with ADR if:
(a) The issue to be considered has previously gone through the ADR process;
(b) The issue presents a question of law only;
(c) Other good cause is shown to the presiding Judge.
RULE 4. SELECTION, APPOINTMENT AND ASSIGNMENT OF NEUTRALS
Selected Neutral: A neutral mutually selected by both parties from among the neutrals registered by the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution in the appropriate category.
Appointed Neutral: A neutral appointed by the Administrator of the ADR Program when the parties could not mutually agree upon a selection. The appointment will be made from the rotational list of registered neutrals maintained by the Dispute Resolution Office.
Assigned Neutral for Indigency: A neutral assigned by the Administrator of the ADR Program when one or both parties have applied for indigency and has been determined to be indigent. The neutral assigned for indigency shall be the neutral mutually selected by the parties or the appointed neutral.
(a) The parties shall have an opportunity to select from among the neutrals registered by the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution in the appropriate category by mutual agreement.
(b) Absent agreement on the mutual selection of a neutral by the parties, the neutral will be appointed by the Administrator of the ADR Program. The appointment shall be made from the rotational list of registered neutrals maintained by the Dispute Resolution Office. After the parties have received notice of the appointment, timing of the ADR process shall follow as herein provided by paragraph (b) and paragraph (c) of Rule 2.
Any party, for good cause shown, may request said Administrator for appointment of another neutral.
RULE 5. NEUTRAL QUALIFICATIONS FOR SERVICE IN THE PROGRAM
The qualifications and training for a neutral shall not be less than the minimum qualifications set out in the Georgia Supreme Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Rules. The neutrals must be registered by the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution in the appropriate category.
RULE 6. COMPENSATION OF NEUTRALS
(a) The Administrator of the Dispute Resolution Office shall maintain a rotational list of registered neutrals. As herein provided by paragraph (b) of Rule 4, absent agreement by the parties on the mutual selection of a neutral, the neutral shall be appointed by the Administrator of the Dispute Resolution Office from said rotational list. Each neutral whose name appears on such list shall keep the Administrator advised of the amounts such neutral will charge for his or her services as a neutral. The appointed neutral shall not charge more than the amounts he or she has listed with such Administrator.
(b) The amounts charged and to be charged by an appointed neutral in any case referred to ADR under this program shall be subject to approval or disapproval by the Superior Court Judges of the Southern Judicial Circuit.
(c) The parties in the ADR process shall be responsible for the payment of the selected or appointed neutral’s fee, which shall be equally divided between the parties, unless otherwise ordered by the presiding Judge.
(d) A party may apply with the Dispute Resolution Office for a determination of whether or not said party is indigent and unable to pay the fee of the selected or appointed neutral. If the Dispute Resolution Office determines that such party is indigent, the ADR Program will provide payment for the services of the assigned neutral from the Southern Judicial Circuit ADR Fund. The Dispute Resolution Office shall not pay more than the hourly rate established for defense attorneys who represent criminal indigents in the Southern Judicial Circuit.
(e) Satisfactory arrangements for payment of the selected or appointed neutral’s fee shall be made between the parties and the neutral.
RULE 7. IMMUNITY
Neutrals acting in the ADR process are entitled to immunity as provided for in the Georgia Supreme Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Rules.
RULE 8. CONFIDENTIALITY
Confidentiality for the ADR process is governed by the Georgia Supreme Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Rules.
RULE 9. APPEARANCE
(a) The attendance of the parties is required at all ADR sessions. The attorneys of record are not required, but are encouraged, to attend the ADR sessions. The requirement that a party appear at an ADR session is satisfied if the following persons are present:
(1) The party with full authority to settle without further consultation or
(2) The party’s representative if that representative has full authority to settle without further consultation, and a full understanding of the dispute, and full knowledge of the facts.
(b) The neutral must receive notice at least forty-eight (48) hours in advance, excluding weekends and holidays, of any rescheduling, settlements or cancellations for whatever reason, regardless of whether relief has been granted by the Court. The session shall be rescheduled or canceled upon written notification to the neutral and the Dispute Resolution Office.
(c) The party or attorney who is requesting that an ADR session be rescheduled must obtain consent from opposing counsel and the selected neutral. The ADR Program must also be notified of any rescheduling attempts. The rescheduled session shall take place within thirty (30) days of the previously scheduled session unless otherwise arranged.
(d) For purposes of conflicts, the ADR session shall be construed as being a non-jury proceeding pursuant to the Uniform Rules of the Superior Courts. The parties and counsel may rely upon said Rules in resolving and scheduling conflicts.
RULE 10. IMPOSITION OF SANCTIONS
(a) If a party fails to give forty-eight (48) hours advance notice, excluding weekends and holidays, to the neutral of rescheduling, settlement or cancellation, or
(b) If a party or attorney fails to appear at a duly noticed ADR session after being ordered to do so, the Dispute Resolution Office shall notify the presiding Judge. The requirements for appearance at a duly noticed ADR session are that the party:
(1) Pay the neutral at such duly noticed ADR session; and
(2) Listen to the opening statements of the neutral.
If the above requirements are not satisfied the offending party may, in the discretion of the presiding Judge, be subject to the sanctions of contempt, the imposition of the costs and fees of the neutral; attorney fees; expenses and lost wages of the other party; and such other sums as the interest of justice may require.
RULE 11. COMMUNICATIONS BETWEEN NEUTRAL AND PARTIES AND ATTORNEYS
Communication outside of the ADR session between the parties or attorneys and the neutral shall be only for the purpose of verification of appointment times and locations. In ADR mediation, the neutral may meet and consult privately with any party or any attorney during the mediation session.
RULE 12. COMMUNICATION WITH THE COURT
Communication between the Dispute Resolution Office and the Court, and between neutrals and the Court, are governed by the Georgia Supreme Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Rules. No communication between the Court and the parties shall take place during the ADR process.
RULE 13. COMPLETION OF ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION
(a) ADR shall be completed within thirty (30) days of the first ADR session. A request for continuance of the ADR session shall be made to the Dispute Resolution Office.
(b) Length of ADR sessions are scheduled for two (2) hours. However, the length of the ADR session may, in the discretion of the neutral, be shorter or longer.
(c) The neutral may recess the ADR session anytime and may set times for reconvening the recessed session.
(d) If a settlement is reached, a memorandum of said settlement shall be reduced to writing by the neutral, signed by the neutral and both parties. The memorandum of settlement shall be given to the parties’ attorneys and said attorneys shall prepare a settlement agreement or consent order in proper legal form. The settlement agreement or consent order shall then be presented to the presiding Judge for filing with the original case file in the office of the Clerk of the referring Court.
(e) If a partial settlement is reached, it shall follow the same process as paragraph (d) of Rule 13.
(f) Upon any settlement or partial settlement being signed, the neutral shall notify the Dispute Resolution Office.
(g) If the parties do not reach a settlement as to any matter as a result of ADR, the neutral will report the lack of a settlement to the Dispute Resolution Office. The Dispute Resolution Office shall then notify the presiding Judge and the Clerk of Court who referred the case to ADR of the lack of a settlement.
(h) Completion or exemption of the ADR process is a prerequisite to placing a case on the trial calendar.
RULE 14. ADMINISTRATION OF THE ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROGRAM
The Administrator of the Dispute Resolution Office shall be the Circuit Court Administrator. Said Administrator shall be compensated in an amount set by the Superior Court Judges of the Southern Judicial Circuit. The compensation shall be paid from the Southern Judicial Circuit Fund for the Administration of Alternative Dispute Resolution Programs. The Administrator shall be responsible for all administrative matters pertaining to the ADR program. These responsibilities include, but shall not be limited to:
(a) Receiving referrals from the Superior Courts of this Circuit.
(b) Scheduling neutrals equitably and insuring timely ADR of all cases.
(c) Notifying presiding Judges and Clerks of Court of the results of ADR.
(d) Processing requests for payment from neutrals.
(e) Evaluating procedures quarterly and recommending changes if needed.
(f) Performing such other duties as may be directed by the Superior Court Judges.
RULE 15. EVALUATION
The Dispute Resolution Office will provide to the Georgia Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution, under the Georgia Supreme Court, information that will allow full evaluation of the program. The information will be provided quarterly.
The Superior Court Judges of the Southern Judicial Circuit shall retain ultimate authority over the ADR program.