Wednesday, July 13, 2011

New Rules for Maryland Court ADR Programs

When the courts establish alternative dispute resolution programs (ADR), one of the most important tasks is to write clear, unambiguous and thorough rules. In Maryland that task is the province of the Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure of the Maryland Courts (the Maryland Rules Committee). The Maryland Rules Committee has recently undertaken a complete review and rewrite of Rule 17 governing the provision of ADR services in the Maryland Court system.

On June 14, 2011 the Maryland Rules Committee published a draft of a new Rule 17. A link to both a clean copy of the proposed Rules and a red-lined copy (showing changes from the current Rule) of that draft is here.

Many ADR practitioners and attorneys who use ADR services in the Maryland judiciary have serious concerns about the approach the Rules Committee has taken. To address those concerns and to provide a means to express their concerns, the ADR Section Council of the Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) has established an ad hoc committee to study the rules and to make recommendations to the Council regarding submitting public comments to the Rules Committee.

The Rules Committee has established July 22, 2011 as the deadline for the date written comments must be received by the Rules Committee. This deadline, of less than six weeks, is an extremely short time within which to allow interested parties to submit comments.

Some of the issues the draft Rules cover and the ADR Section is considering submitting comments include:

o Whether ADR Organizations should be designated to pick mediators and the selection process of court-referred ADR providers;

o Whether and the extent to which court mediators can draft settlement agreements;

o Whether Courts should require parties to participate in one or more non-fee-for-service ADR process;

o Fees paid to ADR service providers;

o Quality assurance over the process of mediation;

o Whether and under what circumstances ADR providers can draft settlement agreements; and

o Process confidentiality.

If you have concerns or comments about this draft of Rule 17 please feel free submit your comments here or send them directly to Honorable Alan M. Wilner, Chair Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure of the Maryland Courts, 2011 – D Commerce Park Drive, Annapolis, MD 21401.

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