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ADR In The Superior Court – An Outline Of The Appellate Mediation Program

By: Nancy J. Glidden

The Pennsylvania Superior Court established an Appellate Mediation Program in October of 2006. Though initially limited to appeals pending in the Eastern District, the Program was expanded in September 2008, to include the Court’s Western District. The Program serves the dual purpose of providing litigants with an Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”) option at the appellate level, while also assisting the Superior Court with managing its caseload.

Civil, family-related and Orphans’ Court appeals are eligible for mediation — with the latter two categories being particularly well-suited. Whether an appeal will actually proceed to mediation, however, depends upon an initial screening conducted by the Mediator. In the Eastern District, the current Program Director/Mediator is P. Douglas Sisk, Esquire. The current Program Director/Mediator in the Western District is Ann L. Begler, Esquire.

The process is quite streamlined. A party desiring mediation must make a request to the Mediator. In addition to the request, a Mediation Statement must be submitted to the Mediator at the same time the docketing papers for the appeal are filed with the Prothonotary. Upon the Mediator’s consideration of the Mediation Statement, docketing papers, and the Order from which the appeal has been taken, cases deemed appropriate will be promptly scheduled for a mediation session and the parties notified.

Prior to the actual mediation, each party must submit a confidential position paper of no more than five (5) pages in length. The position papers are submitted to the Mediator only, and are not filed of record in the appeal, or exchanged by the parties. The lead attorney for each party must attend the mediation along with the person or persons having settlement authority. The mediation proceedings are confidential and are subject to the provisions of 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 5949 regarding confidentiality.

A mediation may involve a single session or multiple sessions, depending upon the Mediator’s assessment of progress and the prospects for achieving settlement. Regardless of whether the mediation involves a single session or multiple sessions, it is important to note that the entire process occurs during the pre-briefing time frame of the appeal. The Rules of Appellate Procedure are not suspended, and the briefing schedules are not altered or delayed. If the mediation leads to a settlement, the appeal is dismissed.

For more information on how the ADR process can lead to a faster, less expensive and more practical solution to your legal disputes, contact our office.

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