Settlement Program Overview
The Supreme Court's Settlement Program is an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) program that was started in 1997. Since its inception, 52% of the cases assigned to the program have settled. The program is administered under the provisions of Nevada Rule of Appellate Procedure 16 (NRAP 16).
The ADR method of the program is MEDIATION. Mediation is a process in which an impartial third party, a Settlement Judge, assists the parties in considering options for settlement of their dispute. The settlement judge doesn't decide the outcome of the case, but rather assists the parties in communicating their positions and interests in order to promote understanding, reconciliation, and a mutually acceptable solution to the dispute. In so doing, the settlement judge may ask questions, help define issues, and assist in the generation and evaluation of settlement proposals. Mediation provides the parties with an opportunity to resolve their case themselves.
Settlement Judges (biographies) are appointed by the Supreme Court based on an evaluation of the applicant's education, training and experience. Settlement judges are required to have a high level of training and experience in mediation. Most settlement judges also have significant legal experience as practicing attorneys, including specialized experience in the unique issues that arise on appeal. All settlement judges' professional biographies are available on this web site.
What to Expect When a Case is Assigned to the Program
Generally, any civil appeal, except those in which any party is not represented by an attorney or which involves termination of parental rights, may be referred to the settlement program. The clerk's office sends out a notice indicating that an appeal has been referred to the program. The issuance of the referral notice automatically stays the time for requesting and preparing transcripts and for filing briefs. If the appeal is accepted into the program, another notice will be issued informing counsel of the settlement judge assigned to the case. If the appeal is not accepted into the program, then a notice setting forth the deadlines for requesting transcripts and filing briefs will be issued.
The settlement judge will conduct a premediation telephone conference with all counsel. This conference is held to assist the settlement judge in evaluating whether the case is appropriate for mediation. If the settlement judge determines that the case is appropriate for mediation he or she will work with counsel to schedule a mediation session.
Although there are a number of different ways in which mediation may proceed, generally, a mediation session will start with all parties together in a joint session. The settlement judge will describe how the process works, explain the settlement judge's role and establish ground rules and an agenda for the session. Generally, parties then make opening statements. Sometimes the settlement judge will conduct the whole process in a joint session, or there may be instances where the settlement judge will meet individually with participants. If a settlement is reached, the agreement should be reduced to writing as soon as practical and then the appeal may be dismissed by motion or stipulation. If a settlement is not reached, the timelines for briefing and transcript preparation will be reinstated and the appeal will proceed.
Any questions regarding scheduling of sessions or procedures to be followed during the mediation should be directed to the settlement judge.
Advantages to the Settlement Program
- Party-driven Process: Parties have an opportunity to work towards a solution to their dispute with an outcome everyone can accept, rather than having a court impose a decision. This is often seen as a less stressful way of resolving disputes compared to continuing with litigation.
- Cost Savings: Because the mediation is held at the beginning of the appellate process, and because briefing and the preparation of transcripts are stayed, parties can avoid significant costs. Also, it's possible to resolve a case within a few days through mediation, whereas a fully briefed and argued appeal may take months to resolve. Additionally, the parties may resolve all outstanding issues between them (including other related litigation), not just the specific legal issues in a particular appeal.
- Risk Avoidance: Even though on appeal there may already be a perceived "winner" and perceived "loser," there is always a chance that the judgment could be reversed and remanded for additional proceedings, including a new trial. Also, a judgment may not be worth face value if it has not yet been collected. For example, a debtor may file for bankruptcy or there may be a significant delay in collecting a judgment. A mediated resolution can provide more certainty.
- Mediation is Effective: Many seemingly intractable disputes have been resolved through the Settlement Program. Additionally, a mediated settlement provides higher satisfaction for all parties. This is because mediation allows the parties to consider creative and mutually beneficial outcomes that may not be possible for courts to consider in rendering legal decisions.
Settlement Program Administrative Coordinator
Nevada Supreme Court
201 South Carson Street
Carson City, NV 89701
Phone: (775) 684-1600 or (702) 486-9300