The Fifth District Court of Appeal began a pilot appellate mediation program in 2001 for final civil and family appeals. The pilot was deemed a success by the court and adopted as a permanent program in July 2004. The program is achieving the goals of saving litigants time and money by resolving disputes more quickly and less expensively than the appeal process and helping to narrow and clarify issues for appeal so that cases can be expedited. To date, in excess of 30% of the cases sent to mediation have been resolved.
The Mediation Program at the Fifth District is different from other appellate mediation programs in this state and most other appellate mediation programs in other states. Selection of cases appropriate for mediation are made by one of three screening judges on the court. In all eligible cases (final civil and family appeals with attorney representation of all parties), the parties complete and file with the court a mediation questionnaire setting forth the issues involved in the appeal and their position on whether or not mediation would be helpful.
Once a case is selected, mediation is mandatory, within a limited time span, so that the delay will not affect the course of the appeal, if mediation fails, and so that most of the costs of the appeal can be avoided, if the mediation is successful.
Parties are free to select their own mediator from a list of mediators who are certified in appellate mediation. Mediators agree to accept referrals from the court for parties who cannot agree on a mediator at a $200.00 per hour rate and to accept up to two pro bono cases per year, for a limited time span per case, for parties unable to afford the mediation process. In almost all cases, the parties mutually agree on a mediator.
To obtain more information about the mediation program or to offer ideas and suggestions, contact the court’s mediation coordinator at (386) 947-1547.