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Coming to the Table: Part 160 and Alternative Dispute Resolution in the New York Trial Courts

by | Apr 3, 2024 | Litigation & Appeals

By Lisa Giunta-Popeil, Esq.

In February, Part 160 was added to the New York Rules of the Chief Administrative Judge and introduces a new framework for trial courts in approaching alternative dispute resolution.  Despite seemingly minimal fanfare at the time of its enactment, Part 160 represents a clear shift by the judiciary toward encouraging litigants to embrace alternative means of resolving disputes even at the beginning stages of litigation.

Under Part 160, a trial court will be required, at “the earliest practicable time,” to refer any civil dispute pending before it to the “appropriate ADR process.”  Exceptions to this rule include, but are not limited to, when such referral is prohibited under law, the court determines that such referral is not in the interest of justice or a party opts out pursuant to local rule of court or administrative order of the Chief Administrator or designee.  Part 160 also expressly favors mediation over other forms of ADR, mandating that trials courts refer disputes to mediation absent “compelling reasons” to choose a different ADR process.  The Part also contains provisions concerning confidentiality, settlement conferences, the minimal qualifications of mediators or neutral evaluators and a trial court’s ability to remove a dispute from the ADR process once it has been referred.

While Part 160 provides new guidelines for alternative dispute resolution in New York, how it will be applied by the trial courts at the local level remains to be determined.  In the coming months, pursuant to section 160.5, and following consultation with local bar associations and other appropriate agencies and bodies, each district administrative judge will work to develop local rules to implement Part 160.  This process will involve various considerations, such as the selection process for mediators, how much to compensate mediators, the costs involved for litigants and protocols for referring civil disputes to mediation or, where appropriate, another type of ADR.

If you are interested in learning more about this topic or have any questions, please contact me at [email protected].