Virginia's Judicial System

October 2001: Volume 9, Issue 3

OES Enters Into New Mediation Contracts

In an effort to improve the delivery of appropriate dispute resolution (ADR) services to the public, the Office of the Executive Secretary announced in April the availability of funds to encourage and support innovative ADR programs and services. The first Request for Proposals (RFP) involved contracts with mediators to provide mediation services. These mediation contracts have been provided for the past seven years. Every year the geographic coverage of state has grown and the number of mediations conducted has increased. This year, OES has entered into 36 contracts with mediators around the state and hopes to see at least 1700 General District Court cases mediated and 530 Circuit Court cases mediated this fiscal year.

A second RFP sought proposals to provide the services of Dispute Resolution Coordinator/Screeners. There is a significant need for coordination of screening appropriate cases for ADR and referring them to certified mediators. A number of judges have expressed an interest in having dispute resolution services available to them in their courts for appropriate cases. There are many judges who do not have the time or the resources to screen cases and determine which would be suitable for an ADR process. There are also many attorneys who hesitate suggesting the use of ADR to the judge or the other party as it may create an impression of weakness or lack of confidence in their case.

At the same time, there are approximately 1000 certified mediators who have the capability of handling the cases the judges are interested in referring. Particularly since July 1, 2000 when Senate Bill 127 became effective, courts have been very eager to take advantage of mediation services, and mediators have expressed a willingness to provide services. The persisting problem has been the link between the two. The clerks' offices of all Courts have seen a dramatic increase in paperwork and other mediation case management related responsibilities such as developing a rotation list of mediators, creating Orders of Referral, appointing mediators to cases, tracking cases and agreements, and paying mediators. Clerks' offices are not equipped to handle the large volume of referrals of appropriate cases to mediation. Thus, the issue of providing litigants with access to mediation is dependent upon the courts having adequate mediation coordinating support. OES has entered into 17 contracts with mediation organizations to provide coordination and screening services.

The third RFP issued relates to the development of innovative court-connected ADR programs. OES received numerous proposals and ultimately awarded fifteen contracts to programs involving Dependency Mediation, Truancy Mediation, Restorative Justice, Adult Guardianship, and Early Neutral Evaluation. OES is excited about all three contracts and looks forward to a marked increase in referral of all categories of appropriate cases to mediation or other appropriate dispute resolution processes in the coming year.

Conference Schedule

October 10-13 First International Conference of the Association
for Conflict Resolution - "Coming Together"
Toronto, Ontario

October 28-30 Virginia Mediation Network's Fall Training Conference
"Exploring New Territories"
Sheraton West Hotel, Richmond,

Resolutions is published quarterly by the Department of Dispute Resolution Services Office of the
Executive Secretary Supreme Court of Virginia.

To request copies of the newsletter or to be placed on the mailing list, you may contact: Department of
Dispute Resolution Services 100 North Ninth Street, Third Floor Richmond, Virginia 23219

Telephone: (804) 786-6455

Editors: Geetha Ravindra
Melanie Rinehults

Contributions of articles or information are always welcome.

This page last modified: October 18, 2001