Alternative Dispute Resolution
The Circuit Court for Baltimore City has two alternative dispute resolution programs for the civil non-domestic docket. They are the pre-trial settlement conferences which are scheduled in most civil cases 30 days before trial and a Court Mediation Program.
Court Mediation Program
Mediation is an informal and confidential process where a neutral person, a mediator, assists people in a dispute by encouraging communication, allowing the opportunity for both sides to be heard, identifying each person’s needs and, if possible, helping the participants reach an agreement that satisfies everyone’s needs. Mediators do not give legal advice, render judgments or force any participant to reach an agreement. Mediation provides people with the opportunity to participate in the outcome of their dispute. More than one-half of the Court’s cases that are referred to mediation are resolved during the mediation conference. Studies indicate that when a case is referred to mediation, the parties and the courts save both time and money. Often, cases resolved through mediation spend less time in the court system and involve fewer discovery motions.
Pre-Trial Settlement Conference (” PTC “)
A Pre-trial Settlement Conference (or “Settlement Conference”) is scheduled approximately thirty (30) days before trial. The conferences are generally conducted in Mitchell Courthouse West, Room 511, before a retired judge or a volunteer settlement attorney. The Court’s Scheduling Orders set the date and require all counsel, their clients and insurance representatives to attend the conference in person. A Settlement Conference provides the parties the opportunity to discuss their issues and positions in the action before an impartial person in an attempt to resolve the dispute or issues in the dispute by agreement or by means other than trial. A Settlement Conference may include neutral case evaluation and neutral fact-finding, and the impartial person may recommend the terms of an agreement. (See Rule 17-102(l))
Request for Telephonic Appearance
A party or representative who would like to be excused from personal attendance in favor of telephone participation must do the following:
- All requests to excuse personal attendance must be made in writing, by motion or letter filed with the clerk.
- All requests should be filed not later than twenty-one (21) days before the conference or provide good cause for later filing. It is helpful if a copy is submitted to Jeff Trueman, Deputy Director, Civil ADR (Room 248, Courthouse East, fax number 410-396-7378).
- The decision whether to approve the request, typically will be made by the ADR Supervisory Judge. If a pretrial conference is scheduled before an active judge of the court, the decision whether to approve the request for telephone participation instead of personal attendance will be made by the judge before whom the pretrial conference is set.
- If a request is approved, that approval applies only for the date on which the pretrial conference is scheduled at the time of the request. If the pretrial conference is rescheduled for any reason, a renewed request must be submitted for consideration according to the procedures set forth above.
- If a request is approved, counsel will be informed about procedures for participation by telephone at the time of the approval. If a person is excused from personal attendance, counsel will be informed about the Court call procedure for that persons are required participation by telephone at the time of the approval.
Best Practices for Pre-Trial Settlement Conferences
Pre-trial Conference statements: File a Pre-Trial Conference statement with the Clerk’s Office no later than five (5) days before the conference. (See Rule 2-504.2) Please provide convenience copies by fax (410-396-7378) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to the ADR Program Office for use at the settlement conference, and bring an extra copy to the conference. Be prepared for settlement discussions: If there is anything preventing you from discussing settlement at the scheduled conference (e.g. a pending dispositive motion,) consider requesting a postponement in Postponement Court. If Postponement Court is not an option for some reason, the settlement conference may be reconvened.
If your case settles before the Pre-Trial Conference (PTC):
- File the stipulated dismissal (see Rule 2-506) with the Clerk’s Office and pay all outstanding court costs.
- If settlement occurs within ten (10) days of the PTC, file the stipulated dismissal with the Clerk’s Office, pay all outstanding court costs, and fax a copy of the dismissal to the Assignment Office (410-333-8654).
- If settlement occurs within 24 hours of the PTC, file the stipulated dismissal with the Clerk’s Office, pay all outstanding court costs, and fax copies of the dismissal to the Assignment Office (410-333-8654) and the Civil ADR Office (410-396-7378).If you have trouble faxing the dismissal to Assignment or to the Civil ADR Office, call Jeff Truman, 410-396-7374.
If you have any questions about mediation, please contact: Jeff Trueman, Esq. ADR Deputy Director or Carolyn Gilde Circuit Court for Baltimore City 111 N. Calvert Street Room 248 Baltimore, MD 21202 tel. (410) 396-7374 fax. (410) 396-7378 Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org