Arbitration is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution ("ADR") in this Court. Arbitration is governed by Local Rule 201.1. The Arbitration Program has been revised to provide for a "compliance judge for arbitration" (currently Magistrate Judge José R. Almonte). The duty of this judicial officer is to administer the arbitration program as a whole and to monitor the arbitration processes. Individual case management, however, remains at all times with the assigned District Judge or Magistrate Judge.
Subject to the exceptions set forth in L.CivR. 201.1(d)(2), the Clerk shall designate and process for Compulsory Arbitration any civil action pending before the Court where the relief sought consists only of money damages not in excess of $150,000 exclusive of interest and costs and any claim for punitive damages.
The Arbitration Hearing is held before a single arbitrator. The arbitrator is chosen by the Clerk from among the lawyers who have been certified as arbitrators by the Chief Judge. The hearing takes place on the date and time set forth in an order of the Court. The Court delegates authority to the arbitrator to control and regulate the scope and duration of the arbitration hearing, including ruling upon the admission of evidence, ruling upon objections to evidence, swearing witnesses, and preparing the Arbitration Award.
The Arbitrators role is as a non-jury adjudicator of the facts based upon evidence and arguments presented at the arbitration hearing. The arbitrator is not a mediator, and the arbitrator shall not convene a settlement discussion at any point in the arbitration process unless all litigants have first explicitly requested the arbitrator to preside over settlement discussions. The Court intends that attorneys shall be prepared to present evidence through any combination of exhibits, affidavits, deposition transcripts, expert reports and, if desirable, live testimony. The Court envisions the presentation process to be somewhat similar to a combination of opening and closing arguments augmented by live testimony where necessary to aid the arbitrator's fact-finding function.
Within 30 days after the hearing is concluded, the arbitrator files with the Clerk a written award. The arbitration award is entered as a judgment of the Court after the time period for demanding a trial de novo has expired. Any party may demand a trial de novo by filing with the Clerk a written demand, within 30 days after the award is filed and service is accomplished.
Upon the filing of a demand for trial de novo, the action is placed back on the calendar of the Court and is treated for all purposes as if it had not been referred to arbitration.
If you would like further information with regard to the arbitration program, please review the Guidelines for Arbitration, Appendix M to the Local Civil Rules.